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Archive for the ‘ A Look Back ’ Category

Looking Back: Week 4: Patriots Pass First Big Test But Lose Wilfork


Matthew Mulligan enjoys what will be his best moment of the season. (USA TODAY Images)

With the entire season obviously behind us at this point, this is the second entry in a new series taking an in-depth look back at each regular season game now that we have plenty of context behind it to understand the significance of what transpired in each one. Also included will be notable stats, quotes, and additional information to hopefully focus on things you may have forgotten and make it an interesting look back at the season. The idea behind this is with free agency approaching and the draft not far off, this will paint a bigger picture of each game and highlight some of the weaknesses and things that went wrong, which will likely play a factor in how the team approaches fixing some of the issues they dealt with this season.

In this morning’s installment, the focus is on their week four win over the Falcons, which was a 30-23 Sunday night road victory.

Week 4: Sunday, September 29nd, 2013 at Atlanta

Coming off their big win over he Buccaneers, New England’s defense was riding high and seemed to be poised for a big year as they headed to Atlanta in what many felt was their first true test of the season. Facing the likes of Matt Ryan and tight end Tony Gonzalez, most thought that how they fared against better competition might be a good indication of what kind of team they really were. This ended up being a hard fought game that came right down to the wire, but while New England won the battle, it came at a steep cost as they lost the first key member of their defense.

Looking back, here’s a breakdown of what happened that night down in Georgia:

OFFENSIVE STATS:
Total Number of Offensive Plays: 72 (Excluding punts & field goals)
Number of First Down Plays: 28 – First Downs Converted: 7
Number of Second Down Plays: 20 – First Downs Converted: 5
Number of Third Down Plays: 13 – First Downs Converted: 7
Number of Fourth Down Plays: 1, Punts – 2, FG Attempts: 3 – First Downs Converted 0
Punts – 2
FG Attempts: 3, Made: 3

PASSING STATS:
Tom Brady:
Total: 20-of-31 (65%) for 316yds, 2 TDs QB Rating: 119.8
First Down: 10-of-13 (77%) for 178yds 1 TD
Second Down: 4-of-8 (50%) for 51yds
Third Down: 6-of-10 (78%) for 87yds 1 TD

Red Zone Passing:

3-of-6 (50%) for 22yds, 2 TDs

RUSHING LEADERS:
LeGarrette Blount: 9 carries, 64yds, 1 TD (2 First Downs)
Stevan Ridley: 11 carries, 53yds (1 First Down)
Brandon Bolden: 6 carries, 17 yards (2 First Downs)

RECEIVING LEADERS:
Julian Edelman: Targets: 9, Receptions: 7, 118yds (5 First Downs)
Kenbrell Thompkins: Targets: 11, Receptions: 6, 127yds, 1 TD (4 First Downs)
Stevan Ridley: Targets: 2, Receptions: 2, 26yds (1 First Down)
James Develin: Targets: 1, Receptions: 1, 15yds (1 First Down)
Aaron Dobson: Targets: 3, Receptions: 1, 10yds (1 First Down)
Matthew Mulligan: Targets: 1, Receptions: 1, 1yd, 1TD (1 First Down)
Josh Boyce: Targets: 3, Receptions: 1, 24yds (1 First Down)

NOTABLE INACTIVES:
TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Danny Amendola, WR Matthew Slater, RB Leon Washington

VINCE WILFORK TEARS HIS ACHILLES:

Vince Wilfork has been the heart and soul in the middle of New England’s defense over the years, and watching him get carted off the field that night was difficult to watch. At first the reports said it was a “foot” injury, but Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe later reported that Wilfork suffered a torn Achilles, which ended his season. His loss started a shuffle up front that began seeing more playing time for Chris Jones and Tommy Kelly, as well as Joe Vellano, and weeks later would even see a trade that brought in Isaac Sopoaga.

It was a tough loss, and while at first it seemed like they’d be O.K., the bad news was that they would lose Tommy Kelly just one week later.


Aqib Talib enjoyed another strong performance down in Atlanta.
(USA TODAY Images)

PATRIOTS SUFFER A COUPLE OF OTHER SCARES:

Also banged up that night were receiver Aaron Dobson and running back Brandon Bolden. Dobson took a shot in the end zone late in the contest that left him writhing around on the ground after the hit, and he left the game with an apparent neck injury and didn’t return, and was seen heading back to the locker room after the play. Meanwhile Bolden also went down with an apparent knee injury, however, he managed to return and had a late game carry.

OFFENSIVE DEPTH WAS A BIG KEY:

After losing Danny Amendola and still being without Rob Gronkowski, New England began to prove they had one of the deepest rosters we’ve seen during the Bill Belichick era at the receiver position considering the amount of youth and speed they had. Josh Boyce got more involved in the action and made his first catch of the year, which was a big 24 yard reception to put them in Falcons territory. That led to a field goal that put New England up 30-13 with 6:23 to go in the game. Considering the improvement from both Dobson and Thompkins, For a group who seemed to be in trouble after losing Amendola a couple of weeks ago, they were seemingly turning out to be a strong bunch.

Meanwhile the running back position began to prove to be incredibly deep, with LeGarrette Blount rounding out a group that behind Stevan Ridley had been remarkably productive. Despite losing Shane Vereen they didn’t skip a beat, with Blount and Bolden both picking up the slack carrying the ball as a change of pace. Fortunately Blount would begin to emerge even further as the season wore on, which came just in time to weather the fumble problems Stevan Ridley would begin to have.

PATRIOTS OFFENSE HUGE ON THIRD DOWN:

Bill Belichick talks all the time about being able to make plays in important situations, and New England came up big in Atlanta, especially on third down. Overall they finished 7-of-13, but more importantly they converted quite a few in long yardage situations. They converted 2-of-3 on 3rd-and-8, and 1-of-2 on 3rd and more than 10 yards. Being able to overcome those on the road is incredible, and it’s hard not to appreciate a lot of the plays they made that night, which helped them get the win.

MATTHEW MULLIGAN MAKES A SPLASH:

Matthew Mulligan made his first big splash of the season in Atlanta, catching a touchdown pass on 3rd down early in the second quarter to put the Patriots ahead for the first time 7-3 and capped a 12-play, 75-yard drive. It was an exciting moment for the former University of Maine standout. He played fairly well for the most part, but that would be his best moment of the season.

PATRIOTS MADE THEIR BIGGEST PLAYS OF THE SEASON SO FAR:

Coming into Sunday’s game against the Falcons the Patriots offense hadn’t broken the 40 yard reception mark in the passing game all season, but they managed to do it twice in Atlanta. Kenbrell Thompkins had a 49-yard pass in the second quarter, while Julian Edelman had a key 44-yard grab on 3rd down in the fourth quarter. Their longest pass play prior to that game had been Aaron Dobson’s 39-yard touchdown reception back in week two against the Jets.

TALIB ONCE AGAIN STEPPED UP:

Once again Aqib Talib was relied upon to take key players out of the game, and he held his own against Julio Jones. He also finished the night with all four of the passes defensed by New England’s defense including an interception, and was one of the key reasons why the Patriots won this game.

ADDITIONAL NOTES FROM THAT NIGHT:

1) The Patriots extended their turnover streak to 31 straight games during the win having forced a turnover defensively thanks to a fourth quarter interception by Aqib Talib. It gave Talib his 4th pick of the season, and at the time tied him for the league lead with Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner, and Buffalo linebacker Kiko Alonso.

2) Brady’s touchdown streak was extended to 52 straight games thanks to his one yard touchdown pass to Matthew Mulligan. That was Mulligan’s second career touchdown, and he became the second player for the Patriots in 2013 whose first catch of the year was a touchdown (Dobson was the other back in week two against the Jets).

3) Tom Brady had just 9 first half attempts that night, which were the lowest he had all season. Here’s a breakdown by week prior to that night: Week 1: 25 attempts, Week 2: 24 attempts, Week 3: 19 attempts.

4) Julian Edelman had his longest catch of the year at the time in Atlanta with a 44-yard reception, which came on third down. He also was a perfect 3-of-3 catching the ball on 3rd down with two first downs, extending his perfect target/reception streak to 11-of-11 on the year with 7 first downs.

5) That night’s victory improved the Patriots to 4-0 against Atlanta under Belichick, and 3-0 in the Georgia Dome during that span.

6) Kenbrell Thompkins finished the night with seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown, giving him his first career NFL game with over 100 yards receiving.

Looking Back: Week 3: Patriots Dominate Buccaneers

With the entire season obviously behind us at this point, this is the second entry in a new series taking an in-depth look back at each regular season game now that we have plenty of context behind it to understand the significance of what transpired in each one. Also included will be notable stats, quotes, and additional information to hopefully focus on things you may have forgotten and make it an interesting look back at the season. The idea behind this is with free agency approaching and the draft not far off, this will paint a bigger picture of each game and highlight some of the weaknesses and things that went wrong, which will likely play a factor in how the team approaches fixing some of the issues they dealt with this season.

In this morning’s installment, the focus is on their week three win over the Buccaneers, which was a dominating 23-3 home victory.

Week 3: Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 vs Tampa Bay

After beating the Jets in week two, everything was clicking for New England, at least defensively. After a long break thanks to having played a Thursday night game the week before, the Patriots took on the Buccaneers at home and allowed just three points, which was surprising since some thought this could have been a tougher match-up. Instead the visiting Buccaneers put forth a less than inspired effort, with the Patriots sending them home with a 23-3 loss.

That would be a sign of things to come for the Buccaneers, who at the end of the season finished with a miserable 4-12 record and would end up firing both head coach Greg Schiano and General Manager Mark Dominik.

Looking back there were some interesting things worth pointing out, and here’s a closer look at some of the things that transpired during that game:

OFFENSIVE STATS:
Total Number of Offensive Plays: 72 (Excluding punts & field goals)
Number of First Down Plays: 30 – First Downs Converted: 4
Number of Second Down Plays: 25 – First Downs Converted: 8
Number of Third Down Plays: 15 – First Downs Converted: 6
Number of Fourth Down Plays: 2 – First Downs Converted 1
Punts – 3
FG Attempts: 3, Made: 3

PASSING STATS:
Tom Brady:
Total: 25-of-36 (69%) for 225yds, 3 sacks, 2 TDs, 1 INT QB Rating: 92.9
First Down:7-of-13 (54%) for 62yds 1 sack
Second Down: 10-of-13 (77%) for 79yds, 1 sack, 2 TDs
Third Down: 7-of-9 (78%) for 78yds, 1 sack, 1 INT

Red Zone Passing:

3-of-7 (43%) for 29yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT

RUSHING LEADERS:
LeGarrette Blount: 14 carries, 65yds (3 First Downs)
Brandon Bolden: 3 carries, 51 yards (1 First Down)
Stevan Ridley: 11 carries, 35yds (2 First Downs)
Tom Brady: 5 carries, 5 yards (1 First Downs)

RECEIVING LEADERS:
Julian Edelman: Targets: 7, Receptions: 7, 44yds (2 First Downs)
Aaron Dobson: Targets: 10, Receptions: 7, 52yds (4 First Downs)
Brandon Bolden: Targets: 6, Receptions: 5, 49yds (2 First Downs)
Kenbrell Thompkins: Targets: 7, Receptions: 3, 41yds, 2 TDs (3 First Downs)
Michael Hoomanawanui: Targets: 2, Receptions: 2, 31yds (1 First Down)

NOTABLE INACTIVES:
RB Leon Washington, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Danny Amendola, WR Matthew Slater


Julian Edelman finished with 7 receptions for 44-yards on the afternoon and remained a big part of Brady’s third down success throwing the football.
(USA TODAY Images)

SOMEONE IMPORTANT MISSING WHEN THIS GAME BEGAN:

We all remember the fact that both Amendola and Gronkowski sat this one out, but one of the bigger surprises came after we learned that following the Jets’ game special teams captain Matthew Slater suffered a broken wrist, which cost the Patriots another important player. Slater is their best coverage player on special teams and a team captain, so losing him for a period of time was certainly a big blow to a team that would start becoming further decimated by injuries as the weeks went on.

PATRIOTS DEFENSE SHOWED UP IN A BIG WAY:

Facing the likes of Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson, there were questions coming into the game about how well Aqib Talib would be able to match-up in shutting the Buccaneers’ receiver down. However, Talib made Jackson largely ineffective and shadowed him all afternoon while holding the Buccaneers explosive receiver to just 3 catches for 34 yards.

There were obviously no passing touchdowns that afternoon, which marked the second straight week they had held an opponent without one after allowing two in week one out in Buffalo. For a secondary that couldn’t seem to stop anyone in 2012, they had been much more cohesive so far compared to the previous season.

Also worth pointing out was the reduction in big plays. In 2012 they allowed plays of over 30 yards in four out of their first five games. However, through three weeks in 2013, they allowed just one (week two against the Jets).

They had also tightened up in the red zone since week one. Against the Bills E.J. Manuel was 2-of-2 with two touchdowns, but after this one was over they had held opponents to 1-of-9 passing with no touchdowns.

Meanwhile, against the run, they had been just as tough. They put together another great performance against the Buccaneers and at this point had allowed just six runs of over 10 yards, with Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly having been pretty incredible inside.

Here’s a quick glance at the opponent’s rushing stats through three games:

Opponent rushing:

Runs of 1-5 yards: 59
Runs of 6-10 yards: 14
Runs of 10-20 yards: 6

The stat that clearly stands out is the fact they had held opponents to runs of 5 yards or less on 75% of the positive gains allowed. Against Tampa Bay they held Doug Martin to just one carry over 10 yards, with 14 of his 20 carries being of 5 or less yards.

Another great job by Wilfork and Kelly, as well as Jerod Mayo. But little did they know that those three would all be gone in the weeks to come, which would cause everything to begin to shift.

DEFENSE ACTUALLY ALMOST REACHED A MILESTONE:

As mentioned, this week’s game marked another big showing by the Patriots’ defense.  After holding the Buccaneers to just three points, at the time that gave them a total of just 34 points allowed on the season through three games, which was the second best three-game start to a season in franchise history. The team would later release a stat and pointed out that the last time the Patriots started off a season giving up so few points was back in 1979, when they gave up 33.

DOBSON, THOMPKINS SHINE IN WIN:

This was a big day for the two rookie receivers, with both rebounding against the Buccaneers.  Dobson had the biggest day for New England, finishing with 7 receptions after being targeted 10 times, including two grabs on two targets on third down, both conversions.

Meanwhile Thompkins finished with two touchdowns on the afternoon and seemed to be starting to gain a little confidence at this point in the season.

RIDLEY THE UNSUNG HERO IN THIS ONE:

Ridley didn’t have a big afternoon carrying the football, but Ben Volin of the Boston Globe pointed out after the game was over that Ridley was a big part of New England’s success in the passing game.  Volin noticed in the film review that Ridley had three terrific chip blocks that gave Brady additional time to hit their receivers.

BLOUNT CAME UP BIG IN THE FOURTH QUARTER:

Facing his old team, LeGarrette Blount was part of the big reason why the Patriots were able to close them out.  In the fourth quarter he rushed eight times for 56 yards on one of New England’s drives, where he helped the Patriots take the clock from 7:38 to 2:58, and by the time they gave it back the Buccaneers were forced to start the drive from their own 7-yard line.

WE LEARNED GRONK’S SETBACKS WERE ARM, NOT BACK RELATED:

A slightly alarming note from NFL Network analyst Ian Rapoport that week, who reported that the reason tight end Rob Gronkowki wasn’t ready to play was an issue that was “more with his arm than his back.” 

At the time It was relatively disturbing considering all the setbacks he had suffered seemed to have been due to the arm he broke in 2012 against the Colts.  At this point in the season the Patriots were heading into what was considered to be one of the more difficult stretches they would face this season, with games against Atlanta, Cincinnati, and New Orleans upcoming.

At this point in the year they hadn’t seen much production at the tight end position, with Michael Hoomanawanui being the only one so far with a reception.  Brady had zero luck connecting with Zach Sudfeld at this point in the year, having targeted him three times without a completion and he had actually ended up throwing an interception on two of them.

The Gronkowski story would become even bigger as we all remember, and unfortunately we would only be teased by his presence in the weeks to come before losing him yet again.

NINKOVICH EXTENDED:

Jeff Howe would report on Monday that mere hours before kickoff Rob Ninkovich would receive a contract extension for 3 years, worth $15-million.  Ninkovich had played well to that point and remained a key part of New England’s defense, especially considering all the adversity they were about to have to face after things began to unravel following the Atlanta Game.

ADDITIONAL NOTES AND NUMBERS:

Tom Brady extended his touchdown streak in this game to 51 straight games, closing him in on the record of 54 held by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

– After this game when facing 3rd-and-more-than-10 yards, opponents were 0-for-10 converting against New England’s secondary.  To take it a step further, when facing 3rd-and-7 or more, opponents were just 3-of-21 converting against them at this point in the season.

Julian Edelman extended his third down reception streak in this game, which had seen him been targeted eight times with eight receptions.  He had converted 5 of them, including two touchdowns.  At the time he also lead the team with 27 catches for 201 yards.

Aaron Dobson would be second on the team in receptions and was tied with Danny Amendola with 10 catches, 4 of which had come on third down and all of them were first down grabs.

Kenbrell Thompkins was the most targeted receiver in the red zone for the Patriots at this point in the season, having been targeted six times with three receptions including two touchdowns.

Bill Belichick would notch his 208th win, putting him one away from tying Chuck Noll’s record of 209.

Looking Back: Game Two Against the Jets – Brady Loses His Composure


Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson had a good showing against the Jets. (USA TODAY Images)

With the entire season obviously behind us at this point, this is the second entry in a daily series taking an in-depth look back at each regular season game now that we have plenty of context behind it to understand the significance of what transpired in each one. Also included will be notable stats, quotes, and additional information to hopefully focus on things you may have forgotten and make it an interesting look back at the season. The idea behind this is with free agency approaching and the draft not far off, this will paint a bigger picture of each game and highlight some of the weaknesses and things that went wrong, which will likely play a factor in how the team approaches fixing some of the issues they dealt with this season.

In this morning’s installment, the focus is on their week two home opener against the New York Jets, which was a 13-10 win.

Week 2: Thursday, September 12th, 2013 vs NY Jets

Coming off of their week one win over Buffalo, Danny Amendola found himself sidelined after re-injuring his groin, leaving the Patriots having to rely on their rookie receivers along with Julian Edelman in their home opener against the Jets just four days later.  It was a windy, rainy night and this game would have some interesting moments, which certainly had plenty of people talking after it was over after the camera caught Tom Brady expressing his frustrations with his receivers.

It was a low-scoring affair, and here’s a look back at what happened during this game:

OFFENSIVE STATS:
Total Offensive Plays: 64 (Excluding punts & field goals)
Number of First Down Plays: 24 – First Downs Converted: 1
Number of Second Down Plays: 21 – First Downs Converted: 3
Number of Third Down Plays: 18 – First Downs Converted: 4
Number of Fourth Down Plays: 0, First Downs Converted 0
Punts – 11
FG Attempts: 3, Made: 2

PASSING STATS:
Tom Brady:
Total: 19-of-39 for 185yds, 1 sack, 1 TD, QB Rating: 71.0
First Down: 4-of-10 (40%) for 52yds 1 sack
Second Down: 9-of-14 (64%) for 52yds
Third Down: 6-of-15 (40%) for 81yds, 1 TD

Red Zone Passing:

2-of-5 (40%) for 5yds

RUSHING LEADERS:
Stevan Ridley: 16 carries, 40yds (0 First Downs)
LeGarrette Blount: 4 carries, 11yds (0 First Downs)
Julian Edelman: 1 carry, 4 yards (1 First Down)
Leon Washington: 1 carry, 1 yard (0 First Downs)

RECEIVING LEADERS:
Julian Edelman: Targets: 18, Receptions: 13, 78yds (3 First Downs)
Aaron Dobson: Targets: 10, Receptions: 3, 56yds (3 First Downs)
Kenbrell Thompkins: Targets: 7, Receptions: 2, 47yds (1 First Down)
James Develin: Targets: 1, Receptions: 1, 4yds

NOTABLE INACTIVES:
RB Brandon Bolden, TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Zach Sudfeld, WR Danny Amendola


Tom Brady lost his composure in that Thursday night match-up.
(USA TODAY Images)

NEW ERA BEGINS BETWEEN THESE TWO RIVALS:

This match-up kicked off the first game in what was basically a new era, as it marked the first time the Patriots would face a Jets’ quarterback not named Mark Sanchez since Brett Favre played for New York and beat Bill Belichick’s team back on November 13th, 2008.  This time around rookie quarterback Geno Smith would get the start in this game, and the Patriots defense did a good job against him.  They held him to just 7-of-16 (44%) throwing the football, and a paltry 94-yards passing as well as sacking him three times.

But as good as the defense was, most of the talk after this one was over focused on Brady’s demeanor toward his receivers.  The biggest moment of note came following a brief tirade shortly when the offense left the field after settling for a field goal late in the second quarter. On that drive Brady and the offense worked their way down to the Jets’ 12 yard line but couldn’t score, and the veteran quarterback erupted.  

Looking back at the replay, someone clearly ran a route that Brady wasn’t expecting, and as the ball fell incomplete the veins were sticking out of Brady’s neck as he screamed at the offending receiver.

Here’s a quick snapshot at the play:


Looking at the play, it looks like Brady was expecting something different because he threw behind Edelman and behind Dobson (Dobson is circled in yellow, while the ball is outlined in red and Edelman is right below that). Dobson was officially credited with the target, but only Brady knows who he was throwing to.

The veteran quarterback said after the game that he needed be better about how he handled those situations. “I think I have to do a better job with my body language and I definitely can improve that,” Tom Brady’s Post Game Press Conference Transcript" href="http://www.patsfans.com/ian/blog/2013/09/13/tom-bradys-post-game-press-conference-transcript-11/">said Brady when asked about that after the game. “I wouldn’t say it’s a real strong point of mine right now, so we’ll just try to keep doing better. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

DOBSON KICKS OFF WITH A BANG BUT STRUGGLES FROM THERE:

After missing the Patriots first game with a hamstring injury, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson started off his NFL career in a way that most rookies could only imagine, snagging a pass from Brady on a play-action pass and taking off for what would be a 39-yard touchdown reception to put the Patriots up 7-0 on their opening drive.  However, like Thompkins in week one, Dobson had a similar difficulty connecting with Brady, finishing the night with just three receptions despite being targeted 10 times.

ANOTHER STRONG PERFORMANCE BY JULIAN EDELMAN:

Edelman caught what at that point was a career high 13 passes for 78 yards, giving him 20 receptions through two games, one shy of his entire total in 2012. He had also been one of Brady’s go to guys on third down, catching all four passes he was targeted on in that contest, two of which he converted. In Week One he caught all three third down targets that were thrown his way, converting two of them – which were touchdowns (the league counts a touchdown as a first down). That made Brady 7-of-7 targeting him in those situations, so the two clearly were on the same page. That was good news to that point as with Amendola out, and reports at the time said he could be out 2-6 weeks with his current groin injury, the Patriots needed someone to pick up the slack.  Fortunately, Edelman ended up stepping up.

THE DEFENSE LOOKED TERRIFIC AGAIN:

After the last few seasons of not having a real cohesive unit, the Patriots seemed as though they were finally getting to the point where they had a fairly solid group of players in each group defensively. Tommy Kelly really solidified the defensive line and had a sack against New York, while Chandler Jones (2 sacks) and Michael Buchanan (1 sack) also were in on quite a few plays. Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo were playing about as well as we had ever seen them play to that point, and the secondary for the most part also played well and came up with three critical interceptions.  Everything was going right and they were making plays and forcing turnovers.  Little did we know that what could have been one of the best groups we’ve seen in years would start to crumble in the weeks ahead.

STEVAN RIDLEY REBOUNDED FAIRLY WELL:

It was far from perfect for Ridley, but he made it through the entire night without any issues turning the football over. Overall he finished the game carrying the ball 16 times for 40 yards which wasn’t exactly his best performance, but with the Patriots passing game largely held in check, especially when the weather turned ugly, the Jets defense plugged most of the holes as the game went on and prevented Ridley from breaking off any big gains. They stopped him for no gain or a loss on six of his carries, which as we saw from that unit as the season went on was really more of a credit to the Jets’ run defense than Ridley’s inability to pick up positive yardage.

PUNTER RYAN ALLEN HAS QUITE A NIGHT:

Rookie punter Ryan Allen punted 11 times that night for a franchise-tying record 514 yards. He did a good job in the field position battle, preventing the Jets from getting good starts on their drives.  Considering the conditions, Ryan did a great job for a rookie and so far had seemed to be handling his full time role relatively well.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

– The Patriots’ defense extended their streak of forcing a turnover to 29 straight games during their win over New York.

– Brady also extended his streak to 50 straight regular season games in which he had thrown a TD pass, which at the time put him second only to Drew Bees (54) in NFL history.

Julian Edelman had a would-be fumble called back in the second quarter which during the game ESPN Boston’s Field Yates pointed out an interesting fact.  Had the fumble stood, it would have been Edelman’s first career fumble in 50 games played. The play was overturned, so the receiver’s streak continued.

Tom Brady hit another milestone after this game.  He finished the night with 3,846 career completions, which moved him ahead of former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe for 7th in NFL history.

It had been an interesting start, and the short week gave them a nice long break to try and work out some of the additional kinks before they would take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


Danny Amendola came through for the Patriots, but it was a costly performance. (USA TODAY Images)

With the entire season obviously behind us at this point, this is the first in a daily series taking an in-depth look back at each regular season game now that we have plenty of context behind it to understand the significance of what transpired in each one. Also included will be notable stats, quotes, and additional information to hopefully focus on some things you may have forgotten and make it an interesting look back at the season. The idea behind this is with free agency approaching and the draft not far off, this will paint a bigger picture of each game and highlight some of the weaknesses and things that went wrong, which will likely play a factor in how the team approaches fixing some of the issues they dealt with this season.

In this morning’s installment, the focus is on their week one game out in Buffalo against the Bills, which was a 23-21 win to open 2013.

Week 1: Sunday, September 8th, 2013 at Buffalo

They say the first game of the season sets the tone for the year, and it’s hard to argue that what transpired in New England’s opening game out in Buffalo did exactly that to their football team after seeing how it all unfolded.

After building a 17-14 halftime lead, the Patriots fell behind 21-17 in the 3rd quarter and it would take some critical plays down the stretch for New England to battle back and ultimately notch their first win of the season.

Here’s a quick look at some numbers from the game, as well as some additional key points from week one that stood out:

OFFENSIVE STATS:
Total Offensive Plays: 89 (Excluding punts & field goals)
Number of First Down Plays: 39 – First Downs Converted: 8
Number of Second Down Plays: 29 – First Downs Converted: 6
Number of Third Down Plays: 20 – First Downs Converted: 11
Number of Fourth Down Plays: 1, First Downs Converted 0
Punts – 6
FG Attempts: 3, Made: 3

PASSING STATS:
Tom Brady:
Total: 29-of-52 for 288yds, 3 sacks, 2 TD’s, 1 INT, QB Rating: 76.4
First Down: 11-of-22 (50%) for 122yds 1 sack
Second Down: 5-of-13 (38%) for 32yds 1 INT
Third Down: 13-of-17 (76%) for 134yds 2 sacks, 2 TD’s

Red Zone Passing:
3-of-7 (43%) for 21yds, 2 sacks, 2 TD’s

RUSHING LEADERS:
Shane Vereen: 14 carries, 101yds (4 First Downs)
Stevan Ridley: 9 carries, 46yds (2 First Downs)
LeGarrette Blount: 7 carries, 15yds (1 First Down)

RECEIVING LEADERS:
Danny Amendola: Targets: 14, Receptions: 10, 104yds (9 First Downs)
Julian Edelman: Targets: 9, Receptions: 7, 79yds (4 First Downs)
Shane Vereen: Targets: 10, Receptions: 7, 58yds (3 First Downs)
Kenbrell Thompkins: Targets: 14, Receptions: 4, 42yds (2 First Downs)
Michael Hoomanawanui: Targets: 2, Receptions: 1, 5yds

NOTABLE INACTIVES:
WR Aaron Dobson, RB Brandon Bolden, TE Rob Gronkowski, S Duron Harmon, RB Leon Washington


Kenbrell Thompkins struggled to get on the same page with Tom Brady in his first career NFL regular season game.
(USA TODAY Images)

NEWCOMER DANNY AMENDOLA MAKES THE KEY PLAYS IN THE FINAL DRIVE FOR THE PATRIOTS, BUT IT CAME AT A STEEP COST:

After dealing with a groin injury at the end of training camp, Amendola started off the season already in a tough spot.  The veteran receiver, who was already saddled with the “injury prone” label after being signed during the offseason, didn’t help his cause after suffering an early setback in that game, with the veteran receiver re-aggravating the injury in the first half while finishing with just 3 receptions for 40-yards.

In the second half he gutted it out, piling up seven receptions for 64 yards, four of which came during the Patriots game-winning drive.  His final grab was huge, converting a critical 3rd-and-8 thanks to a 10-yard reception that got New England down to the Bills’ 29-yard line.

The bad news was, that was the last time Amendola would see action for several weeks, as reports of a more significant injury later surfaced that ended up requiring him to be shut down in the weeks to come.

RUNNING BACK SHANE VEREEN MAKES THE MOST OF HIS OPPORTUNITIES AND SHINES, BUT SUFFERS A KEY INJURY:

After going up right away 10-0 on the Bills, the Patriots seemed to be in control of the game and were on the verge of increasing their lead when Stevan Ridley committed the cardinal sin of fumbling the football on the opponent’s side of the field.  From there Ridley couldn’t do anything other than watch as Bills’ safety Da’Norris Searcy took his turnover back 74-yards for a touchdown, which woke up everyone in the stadium and gave the Bills some momentum.  That one play sent Ridley to the sideline for the remainder of the contest, and unfortunately was a sign of things to come for the veteran running back.

However, Shane Vereen would take advantage of Ridley’s miscue and finished the afternoon with 14 carries for 101 yards, and also caught 7 passes for 58 yards.  Vereen also had a critical 15-yard run on the Patriots game-wnning drive to take the ball down to Buffalo’s 14-yard line that set up Stephen Gostkowski’s game-winning field goal.

He was a critical part of their success that day. Overall his seven catches were just one shy of his entire reception total from last season, where he was targeted just 13 times for 8 receptions and 149 yards.  Of his 7 catches, four of them converted first downs.  He also had four first downs rushing on the afternoon, and he accounted for 8 of the Patriots 25 total offensive first downs (they had 26 total on the day, with one coming off of a Bills penalty).

Unfortunately, what seemed to be a performance to build on ended up costing Vereen after reports later came out after the game that the Patriots’ running back suffered a fractured wrist, which actually occurred on the first play of the game.  He fought through it and had a big day, but, like Amendola, it ended up taking him out of action in the weeks ahead.

NOW ON HIS OWN, RECEIVER JULIAN EDELMAN STANDS OUT:

In his first full outing as a starter in the “post-Wes Welker” era, Edelman started off strong and really set the tone for what ended up being a terrific season for him.  He caught five passes on five first-half targets against the Bills, including two touchdowns.  Overall he finished with 7 receptions for 79-yards, and Brady was 3-of-3 targeting him on third down with two conversions, both of which came in scoring territory for touchdowns.

KYLE ARRINGTON HAD A BIG OUTING:

The veteran defensive back forced two fumbles, the second of which they were able to turn into a touchdown. Overall their pass defense was terrific, with the most important number that stood out being that they didn’t allow any big plays, having not given up a single pass of over 20 yards against the Bills.

“We made just enough plays,” Arrington told the Boston Globe. “We’re definitely more focused this year on there being other ways to cause turnovers at our position besides intercepting the ball. When you see an opportunity to cause a fumble, seize it.”

ROUGH START FOR ROOKIE WR THOMPKINS:

After a preseason that saw Brady miss him just twice after connecting on 10-of-12 passes for 116 yards, Thompkins only managed to haul in four passes despite fourteen targets and they struggled in their regular season debut.

Their inability to connect ended up contributing to the offense finding itself in long-yardage situations quite a bit on Sunday. Brady went to Thompkins eight times on first down, completing just two throws and the pair hooked up just twice (2-of-4) on 2nd down. Their struggles lead to 12 of their 20 third downs being from 3rd-and-7 or longer, and the Patriots converted 11 in total via the passing game on the afternoon – none of which were completed to Thompkins. On third down Brady looked his way just twice, one of which he caught but failed to make sure his second foot stayed in bounds on a sideline route. Needless to say it wasn’t quite the start they were probably hoping for.

PATRIOTS RUN DEFENSE WAS SOLID:

Looking back at the game, another thing worth mentioning after looking at the numbers was how impressive the Patriots run defense was against the Bills. They held Buffalo to 19 rushes of five yards or less, and just two over 10 yards. CJ Spiller was held in check, with 9 of his 12 rushes being held to 5 or less yards. It’s a tall order to slow down someone of his caliber, so it’s hard not to appreciate just how well New England’s defensive line played against him in that game.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

– One other thing that stood out for the defense was the differential of first downs when comparing the two teams. New England finished the day with 26 total offensive first downs compared to just 15 for the Bills. Even more impressive was the fact the Patriots converting 18 of them through the air compared to just 6 for the Bills. They also held Buffalo to just 4-of-13 on third down (31%).

– Brady extended his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 49 straight games during the win, which at the time was five short of the NFL record. The defense had also extended an impressive streak of their own, forcing a turnover in their 28th straight game, which happened on the Spiller fumble to start the game. Also, when the team took the field to open the season, not one player who caught a first down for Tom Brady in 2012 was on the field in Buffalo. Last year they finished the game with 33 first downs, with the running backs rushing for 19 first downs, while the receivers accounted for 13 of their own – none of which were there this time around. Last season it was Wes Welker (5), Rob Gronkowski (3), Brandon Lloyd (2), Danny Woodhead (1), Daniel Fells (1) and Brandon Bolden (1) who moved the chains for them.

– One other note. After a terrific preseason, tight end Zach Sudfeld was held without a reception and to make matters worse, Brady would be picked off during his one attempt in Sudfeld’s direction. That would be a sign of things to come for Sudfeld, who lit things up during the exhibition season but never ended up becoming a factor in their offense.


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