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Archive for October, 2011

My Five Keys To Victory For The Patriots Against The Steelers

The Patriots (5-1) are coming off of their bye week, and now are back in action today to face the the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) on the road at Heinz Field. 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 today 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 Steelers are coming off of a 32-20 road victory against the Arizona Cardinals. They have been playing much better after a tough start to the season. Pittsburgh as always will be a very tough opponent for the Patriots.

On defense, they are in the top 10 in most categories in the NFL. In passing yards they are only giving up 171.9 yards per game which is 2nd in the league. They are also only giving up 17.4 points per game which has them currently 3rd in the NFL.

On the defensive line they are led by nose tackle Casey Hampton who could give Patriots Center Dan Connolly problems. Aaron Smith at defensive end is another player on this unit that the Patriots need to watch.

The strength of this 3-4 zone blitz defense are the linebackers. Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior control the middle, and are both top linebackers. The player to watch out for has to be LaMarr Woodley, and he is a force from his outside linebacker position. He already has 7 sacks, and also has 34 tackles with 1 interception.

If there is a weakness of this defense it would be in there secondary. However, the safeties are really very good with Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. Where this unit can be taken advantage will be their cornerbacks as they are average with Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden.

On offense, the leader of this unit is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who is back to playing at an All-Pro level once again. He already has thrown for 1810 yards with 12 touchdowns.

This unit is now more focused on the passing game than running the ball now. The difference this season has been the emergence of wide receiver Mike Wallace who has become a real deep threat. Wallace already has 36 receptions for 730 yards and 5 touchdowns. At the other wide receiver position you have Hines Ward who continues to be extremely productive. A player in the passing game, the Patriots will need to control will be tight end Heath Miller who seriously moves the chains for the Steelers.

In the running game they are led by Rashard Mendenhall who is a solid running back. The Steelers will still run the ball, and the Patriots will need to limit Mendenhall in this game.

It is strange to say this with the Steelers, but this game has the potential to be a shootout. I do see the Steelers taking advantage of the Patriots secondary, but I like Tom Brady’s chances in being able to take advantage of the Pittsburgh defense. I do see the Patriots coming out of Pittsburgh with a victory, but it will be a serious challenge.

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

1. The Patriots need to put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. In the game last season, the Patriots blitzed and harrassed the Steelers quarterback often. I feel they are going to need a similar effort from the defense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brandon Spikes and possibly Patrick Chung come on several blitzes in this game.

Also, I think it will be important to get pressure up the middle to affect Roethlisberger from stepping up in the pocket. Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth could be very important in this game. The Patriots secondary is suspect, and a pass rush will be needed to help them out.

2. The Patriots need to contain tight end Heath Miller. I have heard much talk in the media that the player the Patriots need to take away first is Wallace. I disagree as I see the bigger threat being Miller. He moves the chains for the Steelers, and on third down is Roethlisberger’s go to reciever.

3. The Patriots offensive line needs to do a much better job in protecting Tom Brady. Now, the offensive line was great in the beginning of the season, but in the last 2 games Brady was hit often and sacked. For the Patriots to win they will need to do a much better job against the Steelers.

4. The Patriots need to take shots down the field in the passing game. To open up the passing lanes in the middle of the field, I expect the Patriots to throw deep more than a few times. The Steelers in the past have been vulnerable over the top, and this might be the game to air it out. We might see an appearance from Chad Ochocinco.

5. The Patriots tight ends need to make a huge impact in this game. I don’t know if the Steelers have answers for Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. If the Steelers are forced to play in their sub-packages the majority of the game they could be in trouble. I can see the tight ends feasting in the middle of the field. This match-up definitely favors the Patriots, and should be a huge key in this game.

The Patriots have had 2 weeks to prepare for this game, and are tough to beat after their bye week under Bill Belichick. I expect a close game as the Steelers are one of the best teams in the league. However, I envision the Patriots finding a way to win in the 4th quarter similar to their last game against the Cowboys. I am predicting a 31-28 victory for the Patriots against the Steelers.

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

Patriots Fourth And Two: Steelers Preview

On Friday was the “Steelers Preview” episode of the internet radio show “Patriots Fourth and Two ”. In this show we were be joined by Christopher Price of WEEI.com 

Co-hosting with me for this show will be Steve Balestrieri of Pats PubDamien Jarrett of 4th And Longand Derek Havens of Patriots Haven.

Please feel free to listen to “Patriots Fourth And Two” BY CLICKING HERE.

Patriots Fourth And Two: Steelers Preview Today At 4PM EST

Friday at 4PM EST will be another live episode of the internet radio show “Patriots Fourth and Two ”. In this show we will be joined at around 4PM EST. by Christopher Price of WEEI.com We will also be joined at 4:45 PM EST by Chris Gates of 93-7 The Fan in Pittsburgh.

Co-hosting with me for this show will be Steve Balestrieri of Pats PubDamien Jarrett of 4th And Longand Derek Havens of Patriots Haven.

Again, Please do join us at 4PM EST for 60 minutes of “Patriots Fourth And Two” BY CLICKING HERE.

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 Scott Brown who covers the Steelers for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Scott 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  Steelers Game with Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.”

1. Ben Roethlisberger has started the season real strong, and the passing game seems to be a bigger part of the offense. Have the Steelers gone away somewhat from their focus on establishing the run?

I think they Steelers have been moving in that direction for a couple of years now due to several factors, including Ben Roethlisberger’s development and an offensive line that has struggled to establish control of the line of scrimmage.

The Steelers do want close to a 50/50 split when it comes to run/pass but they aren’t going to run the ball just to run the ball. Last week served as a case in point. Arizona, determined not to let Pittsburgh run the ball, played strong safety Adrian Wilson close to the line of scrimmage and used him frequently on run blitzes. As a result the Steelers aired it out and Roethlisberger threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns.

A week earlier, the Steelers ran the ball considerably more than they passed it against Jacksonville so they will try to establish the run. They are just not going to force it if it isn’t there, especially since they have Roethlisberger and so much talent at the skill positions.

2. The Patriots defensive backfield has not been tested lately on deep routes. Do you feel the Steelers will take their shots against the Patriots down the field with the emergence of Mike Wallace as a real deep threat?

Without question. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said recently that he likes to go into a game with the plan of going deep to Wallace five times. Expect to see the Steelers test the Patriots deep not only with but also emerging second-year men Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. They are not as speedy as Wallace but they are among the fastest players on the Steelers.

3. The defense for the Steelers is still ranked very high in most categories. However, there has been talk that the defense could be starting to show some age. Do you see any downturn on this unit this season?

The Steelers had some struggles early on defense and I do attribute that to age — but more on the younger players than the older ones. While the age of the Steelers’ defense was well documented, players like LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and Ziggy Hood didn’t play well early. I think that had as much to do with some of the Steelers’ shortcomings on defense as anything.

4. Would you consider the defensive backfield, the weakness of the Steelers defense?

To be determined. The secondary has been a bright spot through the first seven games with cornerback Ike Taylor playing argably the best ball of his career. The same goes with William Gay, who starts opposite Taylor, and third cornerback Keenan Lewis, who is finally showing why the Steelers used a third-round pick on him in 2009.

However, the best quarterback the Steelers faced to date was Matt Schaub, and he didn’t have to do much throwing against them given how effective Houston’s ground game was that day.

In short, the Steelers are facing a whole different caliber of quarterback in Tom Brady, one that also happens to own the Steelers.

5. What is your key match-up for this game?

Tom Brady vs. the Steelers pass defense. It isn’t just up to the secondary to slow down Brady. The Steelers also need their front seven to hurry or sack Brady, something Pittsburgh didn’t do last season. If the Steelers are not able to pressure Brady it won’t matter how well their defensive backs play, he will again have a big game at Heinz Field.

Can you also give me your prediction for the game? 

The Steelers don’t have a signature win this season, and they won’t get it against the Patriots. Brady has just been too much for them, and he improves to 7-1 lifetime against the Steelers. Patriots 31, Steelers 20.

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

 

Ten New England Patriots Thoughts For Week 8

The Patriots were on their bye week, and now they get ready to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

There’s certainly plenty to talk about, so here are some thoughts for this week ranging from  my mid-season grades for the Patriots, along with my thoughts on the upcoming game against the Steelers.


Kevin Faulk may be ready to return, but I have mixed feelings on this. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

1. I have mixed feelings on the possible return of Kevin Faulk. The Patriots running back is now back practicing with the Patriots after being on the PUP list. Now the Patriots have a decision to make whether they want to add him to the active roster.

If he still has his legs he is an option, but then you have too many running backs. Unless someone is injured, I don’t think you should activate him. It hurts me to say that considering how much he has given the Patriots in his career.

2. I don’t think the Patriots should even remotely consider signing Terrell Owens. He is not worth the headache, and I don’t think they need to add another wide receiver.

I know there are fans that want to bring in a deep threat at the wide receiver position. I don’t think it is needed as the Patriots are so versatile right now in the passing game. The Patriots have the tight ends to go up the middle of the field, and you still have Welker who has recently shown the ability to go long. Bringing in T.O. makes no sense.

3. The Patriots offense deserves a 9.0 for its mid-season grade. I am judging this on a scale of 1 – 10 with the #10 being the highest. The only reason I am not giving it a perfect score has been the turnovers by Tom Brady. Some of these picks are not his fault, but they do change a game, and this season he has 8 interceptions.

The offense I feel is the best in the NFL as the running game is really starting to compliment the passing game. The Patriots are averaging 124 yards per game which is ranked 11th in the NFL.

The passing game is ranked 1st, and is averaging over 350 yards per game. The overall offense is also ranked #1 in the NFL. Maybe I am being over critical, but the offense does not get a perfect score from me.

4. The Patriots defense deserves a 7.5 for its mid-season grade. Some media members, and fans might think I am ranking this too high, but I think they are average right now.

The yards against are horrible as they are 32nd in the NFL. However, against the run, the Patriots are 8th in the league, and only giving up a little over 101 yards per game.

In points they are 16th in the NFL giving up 22.5 points per game. That statistic alone to me points to average. However, almost every week the defense is taking away a weapon from the opposing offense.

The pass rush is not where it needs to be, but it seems to be coming on. The defensive line has been solid so far. The linebackers have been average as I expected more from this unit. The defensive backs have been sub-par, and need to really improve the rest of the season.

Overall, I would have to stick with my original grade, but the potential is there for the end of the season grade to be higher. I guess we are going to have to wait and see on this unit.

5. The Patriots Special Teams deserves a 8.0 for its mid-season grade. Stephen Gostkowski has been real good so far this season. He is 10-11 so far in field goal attempts. His kickoffs have been pretty good as well. Punter Zoltan Mesko has been real good, and has an average of 45.8 which is real good.

The kickoff and punt coverage has been decent, but the Patriots did give up a very good return to Joe McKnight in the Jets game. The returns on kick-offs and punts have been average at best.

6. The Patriots coaching deserves an 8.5 for a mid-season grade. Now, some might think I am being harsh in this rating, but the reason it is not higher is the approach on defense. With the change to a 4-3, I was hoping to see a more attacking style of defense.

We started to see signs of that style against the Cowboys, but before that it was a typical Patriots “Read And React” defense. For the end of season grade to be higher, I think sticking to a more aggressive style would help.

The offensive game plans, and play calling have been very good. I don’t have many complaints about offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien this season. Overall, the coaching has been solid, but I have seen better coaching jobs from Bill Belichick.

7. Why did the Jets seem to get more credit for their victory against the Chargers than when the Patriots beat San Diego?  I heard a good amount of praise for the way the Jets came back against the Chargers by some in the Boston sports media.

However, when the Patriots played the Chargers, I kept hearing how poorly coached, and stupid the Chargers were which took away from the Patriots victory by the very same media. Both the Patriots and the Jets played the Chargers, and I think the Patriots were more impressive in their victory.

Sorry to say it but the negative spin on the Patriots by some in the Boston sports media continues. Some of it is deserved, but a good amount of it is about the media members themselves and ratings.

8. Patriots fans should be prepared for Spygate to be brought up by the Pittsburgh media and some of the Steelers fans. Unfortunately, this is one area of the country that continues to bring up the scandal.

I think it is time to move on for these people, and just accept that the Steelers were beaten by a better team in the 2001 and 2004 AFC Championship games at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

In case you hear SpyGate this weekend by the Steelers fans or the Pittsburgh media, feel free to send them my story from January. It is entitled “SpyGate: The Most Overblown Story Of The Decade”. 

I spent a great deal of time writing it, and researching to really back up my argument. If you are a Patriots fan and SpyGate still bothers you, I do recommend you reading my article. It is my most read story ever.

9. Do the Patriots need to stretch the field against the Steelers? Against an aggressive 3-4 zone blitz defense, the Patriots have done an excellent job of attacking the Steelers secondary deep in past games.

I feel the Patriots need to attack the Steelers secondary with deep patterns. Whether that is with someone like Chad Ochocinco, or the tight ends running up the middle of the field, I think the Patriots will have great results if they take this approach.

10. The Patriots defense needs to attack Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In the match-up last season, the Patriots did blitz a great deal, and made life uncomfortable for Roethlisberger. I would take the same approach this week. If Jerod Mayo is healthy, I would send him and Brandon Spikes often to get at the quarterback.

The major concern will be to not allow him to extend the play, but you need to get pressure on him. I think this is the game where the secondary needs help from a real good pass rush. The Steelers receivers are real good, and they will really test the Patriots secondary.

Those are my 10 thoughts for week 8, but feel free to leave some of your thoughts or concerns on this upcoming game in the comment section below.

Patriots Fourth And Two: Patriots Bye Week

Monday night was a great episode of the internet radio show “Patriots Fourth and Two ”. In this show we were  joined in the first half hour by Adam Jones of ESPNBoston.com and the Patriots.com Postgame Show. We asked Adam several questions about the team.

 We were also be joined in the second half hour by Marc Bertrand of 98.5 The Sports Hub. We had a great discussion on the salary cap.

Again, you can find the latest episode of“Patriots Fourth And Two” BY CLICKING HERE.

Patriots Fourth And Two: Patriots Bye Week Tonight At 7PM EST

Monday night at 7PM EST will be another live episode of the internet radio show “Patriots Fourth and Two ”. In this show we will be joined at 7:15 PM EST. by Adam Jones of ESPNBoston.com and the Patriots.com Postgame Show. We will also be joined at 7:45 PM EST by Marc Bertrand of 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Co-hosting with me for this show will be Steve Balestrieri of Pats PubDamien Jarrett of 4th And Long, and Derek Havens of Patriots Haven.

Again, Please do join us at 7PM EST for 60 minutes of “Patriots Fourth And Two” BY CLICKING HERE.

Ten New England Patriots Thoughts For Week 7

After a 20-16 home victory against the Dallas Cowboys, the Patriots are now on their bye week.

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 Cowboys, along with my thoughts on the hot topics during the bye week.

1. The success of the Cowboys season rest on the shoulders of Tony Romo. I left impressed by the Cowboys, and I think they will make the playoffs. They have serious talent on both sides of the ball, and they remind me so much of the San Diego Chargers. However, talent can only take you so far, and I feel that if they are going to really make a run in the playoffs, Romo will need to raise his game.

I thought Romo played well against the Patriots. His statistics were decent as he threw for 317 yards, and had one touchdown with one interception. I just don’t know if you can win a Super Bowl with Romo. He will need to step up in pressure situations to get his team there.


Vince Wilfork and the Patriots defense did a great job against Dallas On Sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

2. Why did the media focus so much on the “offensive play calling” choices of the Dallas Cowboys rather than the improvement of the Patriots defense? The Patriots defense has been heavily criticized so far this season. When they have a positive performance, why can’t the media give them their due without giving excuses for their opponent’s performance?

I have heard it on sports radio that the defense looks improved, but the “play calling” by the Cowboys was suspect. That is a backhanded compliment, and to me it is just wrong in this case.

The Patriots held the Cowboys to 4-12 on third down, and held them to a three and out to get the ball back and ultimately win the game. The Patriots defense played well against the Cowboys, period.

3. The offensive line protection is starting to concern me. Tom Brady was sacked 3 times, and was pressured a good amount of the game Sunday. That is two games in a row we have seen breakdowns on the line.

Now, we can say that the Ryan brothers have something to do with it, and I actually buy into that. However, when we get into the play-offs, this line is going to need to do a better job in protecting the quarterback.

I know they can protect Brady most of the time, but when it really matters, can they get the job done? I guess I am starting to have concerns about this unit in the play-offs. I hope they can prove me wrong during the season against an aggressive defense.

4. I am not giving up on Chad Ochocinco. I have read so much negativity about this player, and it is all about his contract. I do understand that to a certain degree.

The issue I have is this player came in to a new system, and I think is still acclimating himself. He still has good hands, and has made key catches to extend drives this season. Granted the production is not there, but how do you know it won’t increase as the season progresses?

Ochocinco I feel needs more time to pass before we pass final judgment on him. If he picks up his game in the second half of the season and in the play-offs, it will be worth it. All I ask is to give him that opportunity to prove himself.

5. The tight ends seriously open up the offense. I kept hearing before the season that the Patriots need a “deep threat”. Well, they haven’t gone deep often, and overall have moved the ball down the field very well. In this last game it was a challenge at times.

However, the tight ends make up for the issue of no deep threat. Even if Welker is taken away, you saw Brady go to Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski often. Between the two players they had 15 receptions for 142 yards. That is what I call production.

6. Brandon Spikes continues to improve on defense. Spikes had 8 tackles against the Cowboys, and was very active at the line of scrimmage. He also was seen blitzing at times, and making an impact.

With the Patriots not having Jerod Mayo the last 2 weeks, I feel Spikes has seriously picked up the slack. He deserves some praise for his play in this last game.

7. Albert Haynesworth is starting to make a difference. Haynesworth I thought played a solid game. When he was in there, he made it difficult to run in the middle.

However, where he really made a difference was in pass defense. He really can push the center back into the quarterback. He did a nice job not allowing Romo to step up in the pocket. His continued improvement could really pay off for the defense as we head further into the season.

8. Andre Carter played an outstanding game. Patriots fans have been waiting for someone to get after the quarterback for awhile now. It has been a while since the days of Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinest.

Carter had 5 tackles and 2 sacks against the Cowboys. He also put real pressure on the quarterback the majority of the game. If he can play like this moving forward, the defense is only going to get more dangerous.

9. The defense turned a corner against the Dallas Cowboys. The question I was hearing after the game in the media was, can the Patriots defense become a championship unit?

Well, at this point they are not at that level, but they proved to me that the potential is there. The defense has pretty consistently now taken away something from an offense. This week the Patriots really contained Jason Witten. When you can take away a major weapon from an offense, that shows me a defense that can make a difference.

Also, the improvement on third downs has been huge. The ability to get off the field when you have to I think separates a defense. It is not all about the pressure. It is the total package of making stops when you really need to. The Patriots did that against the Cowboys, and did it often against the Jets.

The defense is not at a championship level yet, but it just might get there. I wouldn’t bet against it at this point as I think this unit is only going to get better with more games being played together.

10. Talking about Wes Welker’s contract right now is ridiculous. I know Welker was asked the question on the “Dan Patrick Show”, but there is no reason to keep talking about it this week.

It just happens to be the bye week, and the media has nothing really juicy to talk about. So, they decide to push a topic that would make  some noise. I think there is no good reason to discuss it now. When the season ends is the right time to talk about Welker’s future with the Patriots.

Those are my 10 thoughts for week 7, 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 Cowboys

The Patriots (5-1) had to come from behind very late in the fourth quarter, in a game that was surprisingly a defensive struggle, but in the end the home team prevailed in a 20-16 victory against the Cowboys (2-3) at Gillette Stadium.

This was an “old school” victory for the Patriots as they had to dig deep on both sides of the ball. It brought me back to a game I went to in Denver on Monday Night Football in 2003, when Tom Brady pulled out the win in the last minute. Just like that night in Denver, Brady again on Sunday brought the team from behind on the Patriots final drive against Dallas, and his touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez with 22 second left would lead to the Patriots victory.

The first half saw several mistakes by both teams, and it was evident early on, that this game was not going to be a “high powered affair” as both defenses stepped up. The Patriots were held to two field goals, and a touchdown in a first half. The opening 30 minutes ended with the Patriots holding on to a 13-10 lead.

The game continued to be very tight throughout as the Patriots offense was really struggling against the Dallas defense, as Brady was sacked and pressured often. They also turned the ball over twice in the Dallas half of the field which put even more pressure on the Patriots defense.

Trailing 16-13, very late in the fourth quarter, the Patriots defense needed to step up, and stop the Dallas offense to get the ball back to their offense for one final drive. To the credit of the defense, they held the Cowboys to their first “3 and out” in the game.

They gave Brady the ball back, and he had more than enough time to move the down the field in the Patriot winning drive. Brady won the game, but you can’t forget who put him in position to win, and that was the defense.

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

The first thing we learned is that turnovers can cost you dearly in a football game, and the Patriots were fortunate to overcome their mistakes. They had 4 turnovers, and very often you will lose these games.

The second thing we learned is that the Patriots defense can put the team in position to win when Brady is not at his best. For all of the issues the defense has shown this season, they certainly showed me something holding the Cowboys to 16 points. This is a high powered offense, the Patriots defense were playing on Sunday, and they held their own.

This was a victory that showed character as the Patriots stepped up in difficult situations to beat an opponent. This win is something seriously to build on.

On offense, the Cowboys did move the ball through the air, but you didn’t see any real big plays from this unit. Tony Romo did throw for 317 yards, and had 1 touchdown. Dez Bryant was the real deal in the first half, but you hardly saw him in the second half. He ended with 4 receptions for 78 yards. Miles Austin had a nice game with 7 receptions for 74 yards.

The Cowboys running game was average at best as they only had 77 yards. Felix Jones went out in the first half with an injury, and that had an affect on this part of the game for Dallas.

On defense, I was impressed by the Cowboys as they really got after Brady, and held the Patriots offense in check for the majority of the game. DeMarcus Ware was immense as he had 2 sacks and 4 tackles. Overall, this unit did their job against the Patriots.

For the Patriots on offense, Brady overall did not have a great game. He threw 2 interceptions which is not normal for the Patriots quarterback, but you have to give credit to the Cowboys for putting the pressure to cause these mistakes. Brady did throw for 289 yards, and two touchdowns, but he really had to work for it.

The Patriots running game surprisingly ran for 101 yards. The Cowboys rush defense was ranked 1st in the NFL going into the game. To be able to have any kind of success in running the ball against this defense is an accomplishment.

On defense, I think this was a real nice performance by this unit. They did get some pressure on Romo, and Andre Carter had a super game with 2 sacks, and 4 tackles. I thought Brandon Spikes was solid as well as he had 6 tackles, and was seen often at the line of scrimmage.

The secondary gave up some yards, but again they limited the big play from the Cowboys, and that is an accomplishment in itself. They did play a soft zone, but against those receivers, I think it worked.

This defense also did a great job on third down once again as they held the Cowboys to 4-12 which is a 33% per cent conversion rate. That is a serious improvement for this unit, and helping to lead to a victory.

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 Cowboys.”

1. The Patriots defense needs to confuse Tony Romo and his offensive line. I think the Patriots did a nice job overall on defense. I am not sure how much was by disguise, but I did see some blitzing and stunts. I think they showed Romo some different things, and made him work hard for his yardage.

2. Cornerback Devin McCourty needs to have a huge game. McCourty did miss on a tackle which led to a nice run after the catch by a Dallas receiver. However, I think overall he played fairly well as he did not give up any huge plays.

3. The Patriots need to take away tight end Jason Witten. The Patriots again took away a weapon from an offense. Witten did score a touchdown, but he only had 4 receptions for 48 yards. Limiting his touches was a huge win for the Patriots defense as he is Romo’s security blanket.

4. The Patriots offensive line needs to protect Brady at all costs. The Cowboys sacked Brady 3 times, but he was hit often in this game. I know the Dallas pass rush was impressive going into the game, but this is two weeks in a row that the offensive line is not doing a good enough job at protecting Brady. This situation is starting to be a concern.

5. The tight ends need to exploit the middle of the field. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski need to have a big day. The tight ends were huge in this game. Gronkowski had 7 receptions for 74 yards, and Hernandez 8 receptions for 68 yards, and the game winning touchdown. They totally ate up the middle of the field. This key turned out to be very important in this game.

So what did we learn from this game? I think we saw the Patriots defense show us they can really limit an accomplished offense for 4 quarters. Ultimately for the Patriots to go far this season, they will need both units to have an impact.

On a day when the offense was not at its best, this unit stepped up in crucial situations to win the game. They made enough plays when they had to. This game showed me the offense is ready for the playoffs now.

I think we learned that the defense is not there yet, but there are indications that it is on its way to where it needs to be in January. If they can improve on this performance each and every week, the Patriots could be playing deep into January, and dare I say February.

What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of  the Patriots 20-16 victory against the Cowboys.

Patriots Fourth And Two :Patriots vs. Cowboys Recap

Monday night was the fifth episode of the internet radio show Patriots Fourth And Two”. In this show we broke down the Patriots victory against the Cowboys. Joining me for this show was Steve Balestrieri of Pats Pub,  Damien Jarrett of 4th And Long, and Derek Havens of Patriots Haven.

In this 60 minutes episode, I asked Steve, Damien, and Derek several questions regarding the game on both sides of the ball.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, please feel free to take a listen and share your thoughts on the show.

Again, you can find the latest episode of “Patriots Fourth And Two” BY CLICKING HERE.