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Archive for the ‘ Commentary ’ Category

Tom Brady Hits Milestones During Sunday’s Win Over Detroit


Tom Brady’s assault on the NFL record books continued on Sunday against Detroit.

During Sunday’s win over the Detroit Lions, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady managed to hit a couple of additional milestones as he continues his assault on the NFL record books.

The veteran quarterback did a couple of things that should be a reminder of the fact each pass moves him closer to passing some pretty impressive names in league history, and against Detroit, he did a couple things in the second half that should be noted.

Facing a 3rd-and-9 in the 3rd quarter, Brady completed a 6-yard pass to Brandon LaFell, giving him 305-yards on the afternoon and it set up a 43-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowksi. ¬†However, it was the 63rd time in his career he’s gone over 300-yards passing, tying him with Dan Marino for 3rd most all-time.

Later in the fourth quarter with 9:49 to go in the game and facing a 3rd-and-7, Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for a 10-yard pass which was his 7000th pass attempt, making him just the 6th player in NFL history to achieve that milestone.

Brady’s now¬†gone over three¬†hundred yards passing four times this season, including¬†against Buffalo, Chicago, Denver and the now the Lions.

Sunday also marked a significant day in Brady’s history, as he made his NFL debut 14 years ago today against, oddly enough, the¬†Lions.


It didn’t take much time for LeGarrette Blount to settle back in with the offense. (USA TODAY Images)

Well that didn’t take long.

After joining the team this week following his release by the Pittsburgh Steelers, LeGarrette Blount suited up and got the “lions share” of the carries against Detroit in his first game back in New England.


Blount was a strong contributor during his first game back with the Patriots.
(USA TODAY Images)

The veteran carried 12 times for 78-yards along with two touchdowns in the victory over the Lions, settling right back into the same offense that helped him resurrect his career last season.

Blount and teammate Shane Vereen were the only two players to carry the football Sunday, with Vereen racking up 8 carries for 12 yards. ¬†However, the majority of Blount’s carries came during the Patriots final drive after he carried eight of his twelve times in their final possession, helping New England close the game out.

Prior to that it was the Patriots’ passing game that did the majority of the damage, with Brady finishing 38-of-53 for 349 yards and two touchdowns. ¬†On the other side New England’s defense dominated a talented Lions offense that failed to register an offensive touchdown, managing just three field goals on the afternoon.

But when he did carry the ball he played well, including a 33-yard run to start their final drive that ended up being the second-longest run of the year by the Patriots offense. ¬†His presence definitely helps a Patriots team that saw the emergence of Jonas Gray last week against Indianapolis, although Gray’s oversleeping mishap made him a spectator and likely was what paved the way for more playing time for Blount.

Blount also had another big run to go with his previous 33-yard gain, which was a 23-yard run in the 3rd quarter that helped set up a field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

Thanks to his return the Patriots now have a lot of depth in their backfield, with Shane Vereen, Blount, Gray and Brandon Bolden, helping at least soften the blow the team dealt with when they lost Stevan Ridley earlier in the season.

Belichick seemed pleased with the veteran’s performance during his press conference.

‚ÄúI thought LG ran good,‚ÄĚ Belichick said after the game, referring to Blount. ‚ÄúHe had a good week, worked hard to get ready this week. I thought he did a good job for us.


Last week he scored four times, on Sunday, Jonas Gray didn’t register a carry. (USA TODAY Images)

Jonas Gray picked a bad week to oversleep, and as a result he spent Sunday’s win over Detroit on the sidelines while newly-signed LeGarrette blount settled back into the offense.

Gray, who finished last week’s game against Indianapolis with 37 carries for 201 yards and four touchdowns, didn’t carry the football once on Sunday, with Blount and Shane Vereen seeing the majority of the action carrying the football. ¬†Blount finished with 12 carries for 78-yards and two touchdowns, while Vereen carried 8 times for 12 yards.

As a result, Gray wasn’t able to follow-up his big performance.

“I thought LG ran good,” Belichick said after the game, referring to Blount. ¬†“He had a good week, worked hard to get ready this week. ¬†I thought he did a good job for us.”

Eight of Blount’s twelve carries came in the fourth quarter, all of which were on¬†New England’s final drive of the game. ¬†Blount started the drive with a 33-yard rush, which was the second longest carry of the year by a Patriots running back. ¬†New England’s offense was able to frustrate a gassed Detroit team who watched them run the clock down from 6:23 to 1:57, which was exactly what Belichick’s team needed to do to close out the game.

It’s exactly what Gray had done after the Patriots took over the ball with 4:17 to go in the game last week against Indianapolis and Gray was able to run out the clock and help his team get the win.

Instead his error made him a spectator, and after making the cover of Sports Illustrated and having a lot of momentum, the experience likely brought him back to earth.

“We do what we think is best,” said Belichick when asked if Gray’s lack of playing time was discipline related. ¬†“That’s what we did today.”

One would have to believe Gray got the point, but with Blount back in the mix he and Gray will hopefully be a solid tandem heading into the final stretch of the season.

Patriots Reportedly Expected to Re-Sign RB LeGarrette Blount


LeGarrette Blount is reportedly set to rejoin his former team.. (USA TODAY Images)

During the offseason LeGarrette Blount opted to take his talents to Pittsburgh after signing a 2-year deal with the Steelers back in March, but now it appears that he’s on the verge of returning to New England.

According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Blount, who was released by Pittsburgh this week, is reportedly in Foxboro and is expected to re-sign with the Patriots today.

Blount’s time with the Steelers likely didn’t go quite as he hoped after his playing time diminished behind Le’Veon Bell, who has emerged as Pittsburgh’s primary running back. ¬†That lead to him leaving early during his now-former team’s win over the Titans Monday night, which upset many of the players in the locker room.

The addition of Blount will add some veteran depth to a group that is still trying to establish some stability in the back field.  The emergence of Jonas Gray has been a bright spot for the team since losing Stevan Ridley, and adding Blount will now give them an additional weapon as well as some flexibility in the backfield, with Gray, Shane Vereen, and now Blount in the mix.

Stat Change: Jonas Gray Goes Over 200yd Mark


A stat change has pushed Jonas Gray over 200-yards on the night Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

Occasionally the NFL makes a stat change following a game, and Jonas Gray is finding himself the beneficiary of one following his performance on Sunday night.

The league erased¬†a 2-yard loss he encountered at the 10:31 mark of the fourth quarter, which incurred a face mask penalty on the same play by Colts linebacker¬†Jerrell Freeman. ¬†The play resulted in a first down thanks to the penalty, but the league changed the penalty to a “no play” penalty, erasing the play along with the loss of yardage, moving Gray’s final total from 199-yards to 201 on the night.

That play had been Gray’s only negative rush of the game. ¬†He had only two other carries for no gain, while the rest went for positive yardage.

Here’s how his rushes broke down by distance gained:

No Gain: 2
1-5 yards: 22
6-10 yards: 9
Over 10-20 yards: 4

As noted by the team’s official Twitter feed, this change makes Gray just the 3rd 200+ yard rusher in Patriots history.

Patriots Social Media Snafu Should Put Focus on the Bigger Issue With Twitter


Patriots owner Robert Kraft should be more upset that Twitter allows racist accounts to exist than the fact a username slipped through their filter thanking fans for helping them reach the 1-million mark on the platform Thursday. (USA TODAY Images)

There are quite a few media outlets jumping on the Patriots following a mistake like the one they made Thursday night when the team inadvertently allowed a racist Twitter username to sneak through their filter as they attempted to thank fans who helped them achieve the 1-million mark on Twitter, which was a first for an NFL team.

The team created digital jerseys that superimposed the usernames of fans’ Twitter handles like the one shown below which features the one for PatsFans.com (@PatsFans):

A cool concept for a team that was trying to make their fans feel special and it was certainly a good idea on their part.

The only problem was, since Twitter, a billion dollar publicly traded company, doesn’t monitor the usernames¬†it allows people to register, a racist account existed. The automated script creating the “thank you” posts¬†for the team then didn’t catch it before it slipped through and as a result they posted it. ¬†Now they’re feeling the heat, which as much as they’re partly to blame, it’s hard to imagine that the next step might be alerting Twitter of a problem that needs to be fixed.

Upon searching after the fact there are thousands of racist and negative usernames registered and permitted by this massive company, who has made their money and fame with a platform allowing those users a place for their 140-character posts. ¬†The fact that Twitter has turned a blind eye and allowed this kind of nonsense, as well as thousands of inappropriate accounts that promote pornography and hate, completely boggles the mind. ¬†The Patriots may take the heat for letting that one account slip through, but the bigger problem is the fact it shouldn’t have been there to begin with.

One would hope that an incident like this helps a team with the type of influence the Patriots have to at least get Twitter to start thinking about doing something about it. ¬†Facebook doesn’t allow it and as Twitter tries to be a bigger competitor in the social media world they need to at least consider how they’re going to conduct things moving forward. ¬†It’s one thing to control free speech and what people post, they should at least be able to control the usernames they’re allowing.

The Patriots have been known for bringing about change in other areas and are a leader in social media. ¬†Hopefully the lesson learned becomes one that Twitter shows some accountability for. ¬†Google, one of the largest leaders in internet advertising, won’t allow ads on sites that “promote hate or racism”. ¬†Since Twitter is powered by ads, you have to wonder how long it will take before policies like that come into play to eliminate these types of accounts from even existing.

Imagine the NFL electing to have all 32 teams pull away from Twitter. With the NFL already focused on improving its image, maybe they won’t want to be associated with a platform that allows this to exist. It sounds crazy to say, but in this day and age nothing should be a surprise when it comes to trying to bring about a change as big as what it would take for a company like Twitter to be forced to take notice.

Either way something needs to be done and blaming the Patriots for Twitter’s blatant oversight, as convenient as it is for the media and fans who dislike this football team, simply isn’t the answer and it needs to happen sooner than later.

Stat Check: Jamie Collins Now In the Lead on Defense


Jamie Collins has stepped up since Jerod Mayo went down. (USA TODAY Images)

When Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo went down in Week 6 with a season-ending knee injury, New England was in need of another player to step up on the defense after losing one of their most productive players.

So far, Jamie Collins has been the guy who has done just that.

Following their win over Denver where Collins finished with a team leading 11 total tackles, Collins has¬†moved ahead of Mayo (who had a combined 53 tackles) with a team-best 61 combined tackles on the season. ¬†The next closest active player is Dont’a Hightower, who has 49 total tackles through nine weeks.

Collins also has 1 tackle for a loss, 2 quarterback hits, an INT, 2 passes defensed, as well as a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Here’s a closer look by down:

1st Down: 22 tackles, 10 assisted, 32 combined, 1 QB hit, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery.
2nd Down: 14 tackles, 7 asssisted, 21 combined, 1 tackle for a loss
3rd Down: 5 tackles, 3 assisted, 8 combined, 1 quarterback hit

Bill Belichick talked this week about how both Collins and Hightower have stepped up since Mayo went down.

‚ÄúI think Jamie and (Dont‚Äôa Hightower) both have taken on additional responsibilities in a lot of areas since Jerod was injured in the Buffalo game,‚ÄĚ said¬†Belichick via the Boston Herald. ‚ÄúThat varies from situation, what defense we‚Äôre in, what group we have on the field and so forth. His responsibilities have increased, as have High‚Äôs, in terms of setting the front, making coverage adjustments, sometimes changing pass rush adjustments or rush lanes. We‚Äôre not always in the same things, so it varies depending on what we‚Äôre in, what group we have on the field and what we have called.‚ÄĚ

SPOTLIGHT: Goal Line – Brady and TE’s Shine, RB’s Struggle


Shane Vereen is among players shut out at the goal line in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

Taking a closer look at the Patriots numbers down on the goal line this season, it’s interesting to see that this appears to be an area where they’ve struggled through the first nine games.

Collectively ¬†they’ve run the ball seven times down on the opponents’ one yard line, while throwing the football three times over that span. ¬†Punching it in has been an issue and so far it’s been Brady’s arm that has carried them.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how it’s played out:

2014 AT THE ONE YARD LINE:

Tom Brady: 3-of-3 (100%) 3 TD’s

RECEIVING STATS:
Tim Wright: 2 targets, 2 touchdowns
Rob Gronkowski: 1 target, 1 touchdown

RUNNING BACKS:
Stevan Ridley: 3 carries, 2 touchdowns
Tom Brady: 2 carries, 0 touchdowns
Jonas Gray: 1 carry, 0 touchdowns
Shane Vereen: 1 carry, 0 touchdowns

RUNNING BACKS TOTAL:  7 carries, 2 touchdowns

Penalty: False Start, Bryan Stork – Week 8 vs Chicago

One quick note on these numbers, fans may talk about the loss of Logan Mankins, but it’s interesting to note that both of New England’s touchdowns this season have come over left guard. ¬†Overall they’ve run twice over left guard (two touchdowns), three times up the middle (0 touchdowns), once over right guard (0 touchdowns) and once around right end (0 touchdowns).

Going back to 2013 and where they were through nine games, here’s a quick look at how it played out. ¬†So far Brady’s been sharper down there than he was to this point last season having completed just 2-of-6 (33%) with just one touchdown.

2013 AT THE ONE YARD LINE THROUGH  NINE GAMES:

Tom Brady: 2-of-6 (33%) 1 touchdown

RECEIVING STATS:
Matthew Mulligan: 1 target, 1 touchdown
Aaron Dobson: 1 target, 1 reception – 0 touchdowns
Kenbrell Thompkins: 1 target, 0 receptions
Nate Solder:  1 target, 0 receptions
Julian Edelman:  1 target, 0 receptions
Rob Gronkowski:  1 target, 0 receptions

RUNNING BACKS:
Stevan Ridley: 4 carries, 2 touchdowns
Brandon Bolden: 2 carries, 1 touchdown
Shane Vereen: 1 carry, 0 yards
Tom Brady: 1 carry, 1 lost fumble
LeGarrette Blount: 2 carries, 0 touchdowns

RUNNING BACKS TOTAL: 10 carries, 3 touchdowns

Down the stretch in 2013 things improved dramatically.  Brady only had one pass attempt (a touchdown to Danny Amendola) but the running back production down there was a key factor over the final seven games.  On five carries the Patriots scored four times, each of which came from four different players.  Stevan Ridley (1 carry, 1 TD), Brandon Bolden (1 carry, 1 TD), James Develin (1 carry, 1 TD) and LeGarrette Blount (1 carry, 1 TD) were all among players who scored from the one-yard line.  The only player shut out was Shane Vereen (1 carry, 0 touchdowns).

Hopefully that same improvement happens this season.

Closer Look: Patriots Ground Game Struggling Compared to 2013


Jonas Gray and the Patriots ground game has a lot of work to do. (USA TODAY Images)

Taking a closer look at the running game for the Patriots through the first nine weeks of the season, it’s interesting to see where they are compared to 2013 at this point in the year.

Since the loss of Stevan Ridley in week six New England has been trying to get Jonas Gray more involved in the ground game along with Shane Vereen, and it’s been a slow transition as they continue trying to get things going. ¬†Considering the fact they had LeGarrette Blount behind Ridley last season, it’s been a little tougher of an adjustment¬†and you can clearly see the overall drop off in production.¬† Looking at the charts below you can see a direct comparison of how much more difficult things have been for them through nine weeks.

Here’s how things shape up:

2014 Week-by-Week Rushing Totals: – View Full Totals

Rushing-Weeks-1-thru-9-2014

2013 Week-by-Week Rushing Totals: – View Full Totals

Rushing-Weeks-1-thru-9-2013

ANALYSIS:¬†You can see last season that the team hasn’t had quite as much luck breaking off big runs this season, going for over 20-yards six times through nine weeks in 2013 compared to just once in 2014. ¬†Another¬†stat that sticks out¬†is the number of rushes for no gains or a loss (kneeldowns are excluded from this total) compared to last season, which totals 56 in 2014 compared to 48 at this point last season. ¬†Those numbers had improved against the Jets and Bears, but they had 10 Sunday against Denver, their highest total since their battle with the Bills back in week six.

The good news? ¬†After the drop off in terms of the commitment to the running game against the Jets the Patriots have still been making an effort to run the football, which has helped in the play-action portion of the passing game and remains a critical element in the offense. ¬†We’ve seen improvement on the offensive side of the football in many areas so far this season, so hopefully over the final seven games Gray will continue to grow along with Vereen and put this team in better position to be more competitive over the final month and a half of the regular season.

Belichick Rule Change Comes Into Play During Patriots Win Over Denver

One of the changes that was discussed this offseason was the decision to extend the uprights by five feet, which according to reports was a suggestion that was made by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.  The idea likely stemmed after a questionable play against the Ravens and involved replacement officials who ruled in favor of a game-winning field goal that replays showed had seemingly actually gone over and just outside the upright.

That lead to Belichick grabbing an official following the game because he was upset because about the call and was looking for an explanation.  He was eventually fined, but this offseason a change was made to eliminate such confusion in the future and the NFL went ahead and made them taller.

It appears as though it may have paid off on Sunday early in the first half.

Trailing 20-7 and with a chance to cut the Patriots’ lead to 10-points, Broncos kicker Brandon McManus saw his 41-yard field goal attempt hit the very top of the right upright loud enough for the whole stadium to hear, and also shook¬†the camera mounted on the goal post.

The ball fell to the ground, but replays showed that the ball was close enough where they may have potentially even ruled it went over the post, which could have lead to points for the Broncos.

Week-9-Ball-Hitting-Upright

Fortunately the fact the uprights were extended ensured Denver came up empty on that drive.

Obviously it didn’t matter since the game ended up being much more lopsided, but it’s hard not to wonder if a moment like that deflated the Broncos enough to swing the momentum even further in New England’s favor.

Nevertheless, had the posts not been extended, fans wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the clanging sound which¬†officially signified¬†McManus missing the kick.


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