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Archive for December, 2011

Ian Rapoport On Latest Episode Of Patriots Fourth And Two

Monday Night was the latest episode of Patriots Fourth And Two. We discussed the Patriots victory against the Dolphins, and also previewed the upcoming game against the Bills. We were also joined by Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald. Please do take a listen.


Listen to internet radio with PatriotsFourthAndTwo on Blog Talk Radio

Five Positives To Take Away From The Patriots Victory Against The Dolphins

Each week after a Patriots victory I usually go back and write a post about “What We Learned From The Patriots Victory”. I have decided to change it starting a few weeks ago, and focus on what good came out of each game. The negatives are again this week pretty obvious on both sides of the ball. I am going to bring you Five Positives To Take Away From The Patriots Victory Against The Dolphins.

The Patriots were able to come back, and then hang on in their 27-24 victory against the Dolphins. The Patriots got behind early, and were down 17-0 at the half. The best word to describe the play of the team in the first half would be pathetic. The Dolphins came out strong, and played a complete first half of football.

However, this was a game of two completely different halves as the Patriots would rally in the second half. Eventually, Tom Brady and the offense would get their rhythm together, and take over the game.

The negatives for me are obvious on defense as the Patriots gave up big passing plays, and Reggie Bush had 113 yards with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. But, the defense at times made plays when they needed to, and that should not be glanced over.

 


Matt Light was a game time scratch on Saturday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

The negatives on offense had to do mostly with the offensive line. Matt Light was a game time scratch, and Logan Mankins went out early in the game with an injury. There is no question that the loss of those two players were tough to overcome. The Dolphins dominated the line, and put constant pressure on Brady in the first half. However, in the second half, the line was able to contain the Dolphins better, and the offense was able to come together.

As I have done the last few weeks, I want to mention the negatives, but not harp on them. I would rather look at the good that came out of this game.

1. Tom Brady again rallied the offense and showed why he will be in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame someday. Brady had a very bad first half, and he was under constant pressure.

Brady did not panic as always, and rallied the team in the second half. To be able to find a rhythm and continue to fight is a trademark of a Brady offense. He was able to lead the Patriots offense to 27 unanswered points. He ended with throwing for 301 yards, with 1 touchdown pass.

Statistics don’t show the value of having an elite quarterback who can bring a team back when they are struggling. Brady really put the team on his shoulders in the second half.

2. Stevan Ridley is starting to show the potential that he could bring at the running back position. Ridley ran for 64 yards with a 4.9 yards per carry average which is excellent.

You know what you have with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and that is a consistent 3-4 yards on most carries. Ridley is starting to show the potential to have longer runs with a strong burst. I am starting to see why the Patriots drafted him.

3. The Patriots continue to show mental toughness. Many teams in the NFL would not be able to recover from being down 17 at the half.

The Patriots don’t panic when they get down, and they continue to hang in there. They have shown this against the Eagles, Broncos, and now against the Dolphins. The Patriots have their flaws, but they still find ways to win games, and that can’t be denied.

4. Linebacker Dane Fletcher continues to improve. When Fletcher started to really show his potential in the pre-season, I was looking forward to seeing him to play this year. However, injuries have hurt him, and he has missed many games.

However, Fletcher came back a few weeks ago, and he is starting to make progress. He had 6 total tackles which includes solos and assists. More important was the pressure he was putting in the backfield on running and passing plays. I am not saying he is going to be an impact player, but he could be a contributor to a defense that also needs those types of players.

5. Jerod Mayo is now a play-maker on defense. I think it is now the place to erase the doubts on Mayo. He might not be Ray Lewis or Patrick Willis, but he is the leader of the Patriots defense, and showing he can make impact plays.

Mayo had a combined 13 tackles with 2 sacks, both of which were his first of the season. He has been called a tackling machine, but you add that to the interceptions he has made lately, and the sacks in this game, he is now bringing another facet to his game. Mayo is becoming a real complete linebacker.

This is another week that there are several positives to take out of this victory. As I stated last week, ignore the negatives and let’s look forward to next Sunday’s final regular season game against the Bills.

My Five Keys To Victory For The Patriots Against The Dolphins

The Patriots (11-3) are coming off of an away victory against the Broncos, and are back in action on Saturday to face the Miami Dolphins (5-9) at home at Gillette 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 on WBZ Channel 4 at 1:00 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

The Dolphins come into this game off of a 30-23 victory against the Buffalo Bills on the road. Miami has been slowly improving over the course of the season, and will be a tougher opponent than many might think.

On offense, the Dolphins running game has become a strength over the course of the season. Reggie Bush has really picked it up lately, and has 973 yards and averages 5 yards per carry. He is also very effective in the passing game.

The quarterback is Matt Moore and he has done a nice job filling in for the injured Chad Henne. Moore has thrown for 12 touchdowns and 2081 yards. Moore does have some weapons to throw to with Brandon Marshall and Brian Hartline.

On defense, the Dolphins are led by their linebackers.  On the inside you have Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett. On the outside you have two players that can get after the quarterback in Jason Taylor and Cameron Wake.

The Dolphins also have a shut-down corner in Vontae Davis. He might not be at the level of Darrelle Revis, but he is not that far behind. Tom Brady will have to be careful throwing to his side.

AFC East divisional games are often going to be close. Don’t underestimate the Dolphins based on their record. They have improved since the Patriots played them in the first game of the season. I am expecting a Patriots victory, but I don’t think it is going to be easy. I see the Patriots pulling this game out in the 4th quarter.

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

1. The offensive line needs to contain Jason Taylor and Cameron Wake.  The Patriots line could have their job cut out for them as they have combined for 13.5 sacks this season.

Nate Solder and Matt Light will have to continue their fine play as of late of keeping Brady safe in the pocket. This is an important key in this game.

2. The tight ends need to take advantage of the middle of the field. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski continue to be match-up nightmares for opposing defenses.

I don’t see the Dolphins safeties or linebackers being able to stay with the Patriots tight ends. You can cover one of them, but that usually leaves single coverage on the other tight end.

3. Devin McCourty need to step up against Brandon Marshall and the Dolphins receivers. It is time to see McCourty finally raise his game. He could be the key to the entire defense in the play-offs. Hopefully a good performance against some good receivers will help his confidence.

4. Mark Anderson needs to get after the quarterback in this game. With Andre Carter out for the season, Anderson could be counted on to pick up the slack. Anderson already has 9 sacks, but can he continue to rush the passer effectively without Carter?

He has huge shoes to fill, but I think it will be important against the Dolphins to see how much pressure he can bring against the quarterback. The Patriots certainly will need someone to fill the void of Carter.

5. The Patriots need to contain Reggie Bush. Bush has been running wild lately, and I think the Patriots need to show they can stop the run after the last two games. They did a nice job against Bush in the first game of the season. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots can take away Bush from the Dolphins offense.

I actually see this as a very close game for the Patriots because the Dolphins have played much better in the second half of the season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this game not be decided until the 4th quarter. I am predicting a 28-24 victory for the Patriots against the Dolphins.

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

The Patriots 21 Game Winning Streak Should Not Be Forgotten

I was watching the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, and ended a 19 game winning streak for the defending Super Bowl Champions. The significance of the loss reminded me of a Pats streak which is not mentioned often anymore. The Patriots 21 game winning streak should not be forgotten.

The Patriots 21 game winning streak went across two seasons, which included play-off victories and a Super Bowl ring. It started with a victory I attended in 2003 against the Titans, and ended in Pittsburgh in 2004. There were 2 separate Patriots teams that were involved in this streak, and they both won titles.

There are so many memorable games in this period that I am glad that a loss on Sunday by the Packers brought it all back for me. What made this streak so special is that the Patriots found so many different ways to win, and many of these games went down to the end.

If you are a Patriots fan, how can you forget the overtime victory in Miami, where Tom Brady threw a deep bomb to Troy Brown for the victory? How about against the Colts in 2003, when Willie McGinest made the stop on the one yard line to secure a win? How about the opening game against the Colts the next season, when the Patriots held on at the end when the Colts missed a field goal? All of these memories are a part of this streak.

Those two Patriots teams were special, and we shouldn’t forget about the “21 games”. The media has obviously focused on the 2007 season which the Patriots came one loss away from perfection in a season.

However, in my opinion, the 2003 and 2004 Patriots teams were clearly better than the 2007 high flying Patriots. The teams that were a part of the 21 game streak were complete football teams on both sides of the ball. I can’t say that about the 2007 team, as it was very flawed defensively.

This is an NFL record that goes ignored now, and the Packers streak I only heard about yesterday as they were about to lose. But, if you really think about it, the 21 in a row is quite an achievement.

Both the Steelers and the Packers have come close to this record that no one really cares about. But, to a fan like myself, who experienced all the different ways those teams won, it happens to be very special.

I still have the DVD the team made after the streak ended. Obviously the Patriots took pride in it, and it is too bad the rest of the league really doesn’t acknowledge it.

What was so ironic about the Packers losing Sunday, was that Romeo Crennel who is the current head coach of the Chiefs was the Patriots defensive coordinator during the streak. Crennel had a role on Sunday in keeping this record in the Patriots family.

When we look back in 20 years at the Patriots Dynasty, I hope the 21 in a row winning streak will be mentioned. It was a special period that cut through two Super Bowl Championship teams. It was an accomplishment that deserves more respect.

 

Five Positives To Take Away From The Patriots Victory Against The Broncos

Each week after a Patriots victory I usually go back and write a post about “What We Learned From The Patriots Victory”. I have decided to change it starting last week, and focus on what good came out of each game. The negatives are again this week extremely obvious. I am going to bring you “Five Positives To Take Away From The Patriots Victory Against The Broncos.”

The Patriots were able to break away from the Broncos in the second half in their 41-23 victory. Anyone that watched this game could see with their own eyes how the Patriots were dominated in the first quarter. The Broncos offense ran wild against the Patriots defense.

It seemed at the time, that the Broncos would actually have their way with the Patriots for 4 quarters. Well, I guess you can say much changed in the second quarter, and throughout the game. The Patriots adjusted on defense, and Tom Brady took over on offense.

So instead of harping on the first quarter negatives, let’s take a look at the good to come out of this victory:

1. The Patriots made defensive sideline adjustments that changed the game. The Broncos ran the ball down the Patriots throats in the first quarter as they had 167 yards from 15 attempts which is an 8.2 yards per carry average.

According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, the Patriots switched their defense from a 4-3 (even spacing) alignment to an odd spacing defense which is close to a 3-4 base. After the switch, the Broncos only ran the ball 68 yards on 16 carries.

Also, I think you also witnessed a more aggressive defense that got after Tim Tebow and created turnovers. In football, coaches are obviously very important, and much credit needs to be given to Matt Patricia for changing things up that worked.

2. The Patriots defense put pressure on the quarterback. A major key in this game I believed was making Tebow uncomfortable in the pocket.

After a rocky first quarter, the defense, turned up the heat on Tebow, and did get after him. Mark Anderson on one play stripped the ball from Tebow, and caused a turnover which led to a score by the Patriots.

The defense sacked Tebow a total of 4 times, but the pressure was much more than the sacks. They kept him in the pocket, and the pressure made him indecisive on several plays.

Even with the injury to Andre Carter, the defense stepped up, and got after the quarterback. They were aggressive in this game, and did blitz Tebow on occasion.

What I saw in the second half, was a similar game-plan that I witnessed against Ben Roethlisburger in Pittsburgh last season. The Patriots kept him in the pocket, and brought the heat.

3. Mark Anderson was a difference maker on the defensive line. The production  for Anderson had slipped the last few weeks. Well, against the Broncos he was a factor in the Patriots victory.

Anderson forced one fumble on Tebow, and sacked the quarterback twice. With the absence of Carter during the game from an injury, someone needed to pick up the slack, and Anderson certainly did his part.

4. The offensive line did a great job of protecting Tom Brady. For the most part, the line was fantastic in giving Brady time to throw the ball. Elvis Dumervil did get a sack on Brady, but he along with Von Miller were neutralized.

The line is really coming together, and showing they can protect Brady against some really good pass rushers. If they can keep up this consistency, Brady will continue to carve up opposing defenses.

5. Aaron Hernandez steps up to be a huge factor in the passing game. The Broncos did a nice job of containing Rob Gronkowski for the majority of the game.

However, the other Patriots tight end took over, and was huge in this game. Hernandez had 9 receptions for 129 yards, and one touchdown.

The beauty of these tight ends is a defense really has an issue just stopping one of them. Hernandez seemed to be all over the field, and in this game it was his turn to shine.

This is another week that there are several positives to take out of this victory. As I stated last week, ignore the negatives and let’s look forward to Saturday’s game against the Dolphins.

Patriots Fourth And Two: Broncos Recap At 7PM EST

Monday Night at 7PM EST will be another live episode of the internet radio show Patriots Fourth and Two . We will be breaking down the Patriots victory.

Co-hosting with me for this show will be Steve Balestrieri of Pats Pub, Damien 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.

My Five Keys To Victory For The Patriots Against The Broncos

The Patriots (10-3) are coming off of an away victory against the Redskins, and are back in action on Sunday to face the Denver Broncos (8-5) on the road at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. 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 on WBZ Channel 4 at 4:15 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

The Broncos are coming off of a 13-10 home victory to the Chicago Bears last Sunday in overtime. It was another win for Denver where their quarterback would rally his team late in the game, and lead them to victory. This is a huge game for both teams.

On offense for Denver, there is no question that this unit is led by their quarterback Tim Tebow. He is a player that you can’t just go by his statistics to make a judgment. He can be a horrible quarterback for 3 quarters, but late in games, he seems to find a way to make plays when they are needed with his legs and his arm.

He has two decent weapons to throw to with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. He also has Willis McGahee at running back who is still getting the yards with a 4.6 yards per carry average.

On defense, this unit is really led by 3 players. They have 2 players that can really get after the quarterback with Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. These two teammates have combined for 19 sacks, and the Patriots offensive line will have their hands full.

The Broncos still have one of the best cornerbacks in the game in Champ Bailey. He is that classic shut-down corner, and Tom Brady better be careful throwing his way.

However, the Patriots might be able to expose the young safeties for the Broncos. You could see Brady going deep in this game.

The Patriots have traditionally had a hard time winning in Denver. I think this will be a close game, but I do see them pulling it out in the fourth quarter.

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

1. The Patriots need to get off to a fast start and build a lead. The Patriots have started games slowly offensively. I think it is imperative that the Patriots get up early on Denver, and make Tebow play from behind.

I am not saying they should use the hurry up offense. I am saying they need to score touchdowns early when they enter the red-zone. I really don’t feel that the Broncos can come back from a 14 point deficit early.

2.The offensive line needs to protect Tom Brady. This key has been a constant for most of the season, but I can’t say how important the line could be on Sunday. When you have two pass rushers that are playing at an elite level, it is important that this unit keep Brady clean as possible.

The offensive line has really stepped it up lately, and I feel confident that they can do it against the Broncos. I will be curious to see if this unit can hold up for 4 quarters, and do not tire out in the Mile High air.

3. The Patriots should not use the hurry up, and stick with their conventional offense. The Patriots should try to have a balanced attack in this game. The altitude could be a killer for the offense, so they are much better off moving the ball down the field methodically, or a quick strike with a long pass.

4. Tom Brady needs to open it up against the Broncos. I think there is an opportunity to throw long against a few young safeties for the Broncos. Brian Dawkins is questionable, and if he cannot play, Brady should take his shots down the field. All this will do is open up the middle of the field for the Patriots tight ends. Don’t laugh, but this is a game where we could see Chad Ochocinco or Tiquan Underwood make a difference.

5.The Patriots need to pressure Tim Tebow. I really feel this is an important key in this game. If the Patriots can get after Tebow while keeping him in the pocket, he could struggle for 4 quarters.

I would make sure he stays in the pocket, and blitz him often. The Patriots defense has nothing to lose as they are suspect as it is. Why not be aggressive, and try to make life difficult for Tebow?

I think the Patriots are going to end their bad play in Denver, and come out with a victory. I feel they will get far enough ahead that they can recover from a 4th quarter comeback from Tebow. It could end close as I am predicting a 24-21 Patriots victory against the Denver Broncos.

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

Ten New England Patriots Thoughts For Week 15

The Patriots defeated the Redskins last Sunday 34-27 on the road at FedEx Field, and are now getting ready to face the Denver Broncos on Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

There’s certainly plenty to talk about, so here are some thoughts for this week ranging from my thoughts on the recent victory, along with my thoughts on the upcoming game against the Broncos.

1. I think the Patriots might miss Redskins wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. Against the Patriots, Gaffney had 6 receptions for 92 yards, and 1 touchdown. He has 52 receptions so far this season.

In his time with the Patriots, he was reliable, and could find ways to get open. His numbers have only gone up since he left after the 2008 season. It is good to see him him thriving in Washington, but I wish he was still with the Patriots.

2. Dane Fletcher made an impact against the Redskins. A defensive player that gets lost in the shuffle is Fletcher. He is an inside linebacker that I feel has serious potential.

Against the Redskins he had 6 solo tackles, and put some pressure on the quarterback early in the game. He was also very active in special teams. Don’t be surprised to see more of Fletcher the rest of the season.

3. Jerod Mayo is more than just a tackling machine. The criticism against Mayo in the media has been that he is not a play-maker. He has had an interception in his last two games. Against the Redskins his interception sealed the victory for the Patriots. I think he has proved that he is more than just a player that can make tackles. Mayo can actually change games with his play.

4. The screaming match between Bill O’Brien and Tom Brady is a positive. I like that O’Brien stood up to Brady and let him know his dissatisfaction with his interception.

The offensive coordinator deserves some respect, and he has gotten some of it in the media this week. More important, I think he showed the players, who is in charge of the offense.

5. Devin McCourty had a good second half to give you hope. McCourty at times in the first half, looked like the player we have seen most of the season. He was beaten on some plays, and did not look confident.

However, in the second half, he did play some tight coverage, and did help make some stops. I feel his poor play has a great deal to do with lack of confidence. Hopefully a good second half will be something to build on. The Patriots desperately need his play to improve.

6. The Patriots defense continues to miss Patrick Chung. Say what you want, but he is the leader back in the secondary. He sets up the defensive backfield, and makes sure everyone is where they need to be.

With Chung being out injured, I think his loss is much bigger than most think. Reportedly he was seen with a walking boot on Monday, and that is not a good sign. I am hopeful that Chung will return, because if he does not come back this season, the Patriots secondary could be in huge trouble against a quality quarterback.

7. The Patriots made a smart move in signing Jerod Mayo to a Five Year Contract Extension.  According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots have made a new deal with the inside linebacker.

Locking up Mayo for the long-term is very important as he is a key player in the defense for now, and into the future. It continues to show that in fact the Patriots do sign their own players to long term deals. They might not sign everyone, but getting long term commitments to key players cannot be overlooked.

8. I feel the Patriots should put pressure on Tim Tebow. I am hoping the Patriots do not sit back in a soft zone against Tebow. I would blitz him often, and try to confuse the young quarterback.

The Patriots need to make him play as a pocket quarterback, and see if he can beat them that way. Stopping the run should be secondary in this game. The priority has to be containing Tebow, and pressuring him in the pocket.

9. The hurry up offense could be a huge mistake in this game. I just wrote about this in a recent article. With the altitude in Denver, I think the hurry up offense would hurt the Patriots more than help it. All it is going to do is tire out those offensive lineman who will already have an issue dealing with the Mile High air.

10. With the upcoming Patriots game in Denver, it brings me back to the 2003 game. I was at that game at Invesco Field, on Monday Night Football. I sat on the 50 yard line, and was 10 rows behind the Patriots bench.

I remember like it was yesterday when Lonnie Paxton hiked the ball that hit the goalpost and gave up the safety. I then watched the Patriots defense get the ball back in Brady’s hands.

Like I have seen so many times since, Brady brought the Patriots down the field, and threw a touchdown pass to David Givens to give the Patriots the victory.

It was an amazing victory as I learned what a great feeling it can be when the Patriots win on the road. It was simply fantastic watching an entire stadium filled with Broncos fans go home disappointed.

More important, that victory showed me that the Patriots were about to do something special. In fact, that was one of the early wins in a 21 game winning streak which included a Super Bowl victory.

Those are my 10 thoughts for week 15, but feel free to leave some of your thoughts or concerns on this upcoming game in the comment section below.

Can The Patriots Effectively Run The Hurry Up Offense In Denver?

The Patriots have started several games this season very slow on offense. They have used the “hurry up” on many occasions to jump-start the tempo, and their play. However, can the Patriots effectively run the hurry up offense in Denver?

The Patriots traditionally have played poorly in Denver, and there are several reasons for that. I feel Mike Shanahan had a great deal to do with the Patriots losses in the Mile High City. Also, the atmosphere at Sports Authority Field at Mile High is extremely intimidating.

I certainly have first hand knowledge as I witnessed the last time the Patriots won in Denver which was in 2003. The crowd gets so loud that the stadium actually shakes. They are the 12th man in this game on Sunday.

However, another factor that has not been discussed enough is the altitude. It takes awhile for your body to get acclimated to the altitude, and you can get winded and tired pretty easily.

That takes me to an issue on Sunday for the Patriots, and that will be the offense. Everyone in the media is focusing on Tim Tebow. I am actually concerned about the Patriots offense and the use of the “hurry up” against the Broncos.

I feel the Patriots are going to need to count on their conventional offense more in this game, because thehurry up” offense could work against them. This style of the Patriots offense is used to change the tempo, and forces the defense to keep the same personnel on the field, and possibly tire that unit.

In Denver, if the Patriots use the “hurry up”, it could actually tire their offense out, and become an advantage for the defense. The Broncos defense is used to the altitude in Denver, and should not get tired from playing against the “hurry up”.

The Patriots really need to get ahead of the Broncos early in this game, but using the “hurry up” I think is a mistake. There are other ways to beat the Broncos.

It is time for the Patriots offense to force their will on an opponent by methodically moving themselves down the field. The Broncos are 21st in the NFL on rush defense. This might be a great opportunity to run the ball, and show balance offensively.

However, if the Patriots want to strike early there could be opportunities to throw deep as the Broncos are dealing with some injuries, and youth in there secondary. Safety Brian Dawkins is listed as questionable along with cornerback Andre Goodman.

Now, you are probably thinking that the Patriots don’t have any deep threats, but I would take my shots as the ball flies through the air in Denver. I would send Chad Ochocinco and Tiquan Underwood deep to stretch the field. Just making a few long  throws could just open up the middle of the field for Brady to take advantage of the Denver defense.

The Patriots offensively are very dangerous, and against Denver, it is time to show that they don’t need the “hurry up” to get them into gear. If they use this style against the Broncos, it just might backfire on them.

Lyndsay Petruny On Latest Episode Of Patriots Fourth And Two

On Monday night’s show of Patriots Fourth And Two, we discussed the the Patriots 34-27 victory against the Redskins. We were also joined Lyndsay Petruny of “Patriots Today” who came  on this show for an extensive interview.

We discussed several subjects with her ranging from the Patriots shows she is involved with, to her thoughts on the current team.  Please do take a listen to Patriots Fourth And Two.

Listen to internet radio with PatriotsFourthAndTwo on Blog Talk Radio