Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 23, 2015 at 11:33 am
As the madness surrounding DeflateGate continues, it appears there are some other NFL Owners out there that want to keep Patriots quarterback Tom Brady off the field as long as possible in 2015.
According to ProFootballTalk.com there are reportedly a “handful of influential owners” that want NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to hold firm on the original four-game suspension that was handed down and not to reduce it. The obvious issue is the fact that Brady and his camp want the suspension wiped out completely, which all signs seem to point to an inevitable meeting in federal court between the two sides.
The site also reports that settlement discussions have occurred, but so far no progress has reportedly been made toward a deal at this point.
Peter King of MMQB recently suggested that the NFL should wait until 2016 before making a ruling, allowing them to have an opportunity to measure game balls in adverse weather conditions to see for themselves how the footballs are actually affected, which would give them an opportunity to make a more educated decision.
“I think it takes a leader to stand up and say, ‘We’re going to be measuring the air pressure in football for the first time ever this season, before and during and after games,” wrote King. “And this is too important an issue to not have all the evidence in-house before we make a ruling.”
That would seem to be the logical route if the Goodell really wants to get this one right. But for now, the battle continues.
Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 22, 2015 at 8:00 am
As we begin the final stretch before training camp, here’s a daily look at some Patriots on the roster where we’ll individually preview them heading into the 2015 season. Today’s edition, Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson.
Anyone who watched the highlights of what Aaron Dobson did during his time at Marshall should have been salivating when the Patriots took him in the 2nd round back in 2013. In fact, when the Patriots held their pre-draft event that year, there was a lot of time spent during the presentation leading up to the roundtable with ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss and former linebacker Tedy Bruschi that focused on a massive highlight reel full of some of the incredible receptions he made during his college career.
Factor in his great hands along with the fact he finally gave the Patriots a bigger receiver at 6’3″, and it appeared New England had found a weapon that would make Tom Brady even more dangerous and their offense more explosive.
So far through two seasons, injuries have been his downfall and have kept him from living up to his potential. But for the first time in two years Dobson is heading into camp healthy and all indications appear that he’s ready to finally prove that his best years are still ahead.
Dobson suffered a foot injury toward the end of his rookie season in 2013, which ruined what had been a fairly decent start for the former Marshall receiver, and it went downhill from there. Offseason foot surgery kept Dobson limited for all of the preseason and he was never able to get into gear during 2014. In fact, a trip out to Green Bay was the last time fans would see him after he lasted just four snaps, pulling up lame near the end of the third quarter following a deep pass play from Brady that saw him suffer a hamstring injury. The timing of the injury was bad because it was a night where it was a physical game that saw New England’s receivers get beat up. So to see Dobson leave the field and not be able to tough it out, at the time, soured a fan base that let out a collective groan when the news later came out after he was placed on injured reserve.
DID YOU KNOW?
Dobson’s first career reception was a touchdown in Week 2 of his rookie season at home against the New York Jets, with Dobson catching a 39 pass from Tom Brady just two minutes into the game to put the Patriots up 7-0. Dobson’s reception, at the time, also extended Brady’s consecutive regular season touchdown streak to 50 straight games.
This offseason Dobson has been working out in Arizona in preparation for the upcoming season, and appears focused and determined to get his NFL career back on track. When he first came into the league the dynamic of the offense has changed quite a bit, with Edelman emerging as a larger player in the offense, as well as the addition of Brandon LaFell, who proved to be one of the most critical additions as a possession receiver during New England’s championship run in 2014. Adding in Dobson gives the Patriots additional size and speed on the outside, and with tight ends Rob Gronkowski coming back along with newly acquired Scott Chandler, this is an unbelievable opportunity for Dobson to go out and win some one-on-one battles and have a big season.
At the end of the day, the sky is the limit for Dobson, and after being a spectator during the Patriots’ Championship run, it sounded like during OTAs that he’s looking forward to getting back out there this season.
“I’m just out here trying to have fun,” Dobson said back during OTAs. “Making myself a better receiver, trying to stay on top of my playbook and play hard and play fast.”
Hopefully, if all goes well, this finally will be his year.
Written by: admin
Posted July 21, 2015 at 1:00 pm
We recently teamed up with four AFC East independent media sites to discuss which team in the AFC East has the best defensive line. Here’s what Matt Barbato of New York Jet Fuel, Steve Saslow of Bills Daily, Luis Sung of Phin Maniacs and myself had to say about who has the more dangerous defensive line and secondary in the Division heading into 2015.
Matt Barbato (@NewYorkJetFuel): The AFC East is loaded on the defensive line. Leonard Williams fell to the Jets at the sixth pick of the draft, the Dolphins made a major splash by signing Ndamukong Suh, the Bills hired Rex Ryan to run an already excellent unit led by Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus while the Patriots said goodbye to iconic nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
So guys, after an incredibly busy offseason around the division, who do you think possesses the best defensive line in the AFC East?
Ian Logue (@PatsFans): The Jets were already pretty tough last season, ranking fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (93.1) and also fourth in the league in sacks per pass attempt (8.44%). They drafted DL Leonard Williams sixth overall and still seem to have a pretty solid group. Former Patriots coach Pepper Johnson was promoted to defensive line coach, and any fans in New England who remember how good he was should realize he’ll have that group ready to go. Add in Darrelle Revis – who was a clear difference-maker in New England and he really did make guys around him better – and it’s quietly a defense to worry about. They’re the best defense in my mind.
Buffalo’s defense hasn’t been the problem there for awhile, they just can’t put together an offense to score any points. The Bills were fourth in the league in total yards-per-game allowed in 2014, and third in the NFL in passing yards per game given up. The most surprising number is the sacks-per-pass-attempt, which was 9.66% (1st) and the Bills actually were tops in the NFL in 3rd down pct (33.18). Factor in the arrival of Rex Ryan and this is a unit that is going to be a problem, and if the Bills can figure out a way to score points, they have a defensive line and secondary that should be able to keep them in football games and make them competitive.
The Dolphins added Ndamukong Suh this offseason, who joins an already pretty disruptive group. Suh’s addition is going to be interesting to watch because guys with egos typically don’t thrive in Miami, but there’s no questioning how talented he is and when added to a defense that already has guys like Cameron Wake, they’ll be tough. As for their secondary, Miami was sixth in the NFL in passing yards per game in 2015 so it’s not like they’re a bad group. But the Bills edge them out because of how good Rex Ryan is as a coach at getting his guys ready to play, and Philbin hasn’t seemed to bring that same fire to his own defense.
Obviously losing Revis is huge and they also lost defensive back Brandon Browner, who was a physical player and did a good job in his one season. Vince Wilfork departed to Houston as the team starts transitioning to a younger group, and they’re definitely going to start the year with some relatively new faces. They drafted first round pick Malcom Brown and have last year’s first-round pick Dominique Easley relatively healthy after coming off of an ACL injury.
On the outside, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are both good at getting after the quarterback and in the secondary the Patriots have just Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan returning at cornerback from 2014, with plenty of question marks from there. Safety Devin McCourty is one of the top safeties in the league, and Patrick Chung also played well in his return to the Patriots last season.
New England’s #4 ranking in this list is primarily because they’re probably going to need some time early on for this new group to come together, and history has shown they probably won’t be good to start the year and may struggle in the early going. However, what will matter is how they’re playing in December and January, and that will be one of the biggest keys during the Patriots 2015 title defense.
DE Rob Ninkovich will likely, once again, be a big key to the Patriots success in 2015.
Luis Sung (@PhinManiacs): Well, I could be biased toward my team and say that the Dolphins have the best defensive line in the NFL. Signing Ndamukong Suh, drafting Jordan Phillips, hanging on to Earl Mitchell, still having Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon who are set to excel with Suh attacking the middle. All of these things point to the Dolphins having an elite defensive line.
But the issue with the Dolphins is not their front seven, it’s actually their depth, specifically at defensive end. While Wake and Vernon are the clear-cut starters, the players after that start to become somewhat of a question mark. Derrick Shelby is clearly talented and can play on either side of the line, but the next man up after that is currently Terrence Fede, who – while talented – is extremely raw and will require quite a bit of development before he can be counted on.
My choice for top defensive line in the AFC East has to go to Buffalo. With the return of starters Marcell Darius and Kyle Williams – who were both Pro Bowl DTs last season – and the return of DEs Jerry Hughes and star pass-rusher Mario Williams, Buffalo is clearly a team to be reckoned with. For their part, Hughes and Williams have combined for more sacks in the league than any other duo, including Wake and Vernon.
On top of all that, Rex Ryan is now the head coach for the Buffalo Bills, and as everyone is well aware of, defense is his passion. With the powerhouses on Buffalo’s D-Line, Rex is likely going to turn the already deadly Bills defense into something far worse to face off against…I’m open to suggestions as to exactly what kind of a picture comes to mind with that statement.
Steve Saslow (@BillsDaily): I hate to be a homer but I have to go with the Buffalo Bills as the best defensive line in a division that has very strong defensive lines on the three teams without Tom Brady at quarterback.
The Bills are returning with the same four defensive linemen for a third straight year. Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, and Marcell Dareus are all coming off pro bowl years. Jerry Hughes is the only member of the starting unit that did not make the Pro Bowl last year and he had double digit sacks. Mario and Hughes lead the NFL as defensive ends in sacks over the past two seasons.
Add to that the addition of Rex Ryan who will use the blitz to get the most out of the linemen and keep them from getting double-teamed too often. Keep in mind that at times Super Mario or Hughes may not have their hand on the ground and may line up at outside linebacker but they are all defensive linemen.
The backups are mostly returning solid role players as well with Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles, and Jairus Wynn all returning. They also signed Alex Carrington as a free agent. He excelled two years ago in Buffalo.
Some will say the switch from Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 to Ryan’s 3-4 will hurt them but they essentially ran the same defense two years ago when Ryan’s protégé Mike Pettine was the defensive coordinator.
MB: You can argue the Dolphins, Bills or Jets have the best defensive lines in football.
The Dolphins have arguably the best defensive tackle in the league in Suh, while Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon make a strong pass rushing tandem on the outside. The Jets have an already tremendous 3-4 defensive end in Muhammad Wilkerson along with a player many are comparing to Wilkerson, Richard Seymour and even Reggie White in Leonard Williams. The Bills have four outstanding defensive linemen, but one of them may have to play a stand-up outside rusher role in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme.
The Patriots don’t exactly stack up in the defensive trenches with the latter three teams mentioned, but got a great value pick in defensive tackle Malcom Brown at the end of the first round. At 6-foot-2, 319 pounds, the Patriots have their replacement for the iconic Wilfork, who is now a Houston Texan. If Dominique Easley can show some flash in his second season, the Patriots could have a budding unit along the line of scrimmage. New England was ninth in the NFL against the run, which speaks to the ability of the unit. For now, they don’t come close to the other teams in the AFC East.
I took a look at last year’s sack totals to see how much production came from the defensive line. The Bills led the NFL with 54 sacks last season with 39.5 of them came from their starters. The Jets finished sixth in the league with 45 sacks, but only 13.5 of them came from starting defensive linemen. Miami recorded 39 sacks, with 20 of those coming from starters.
Buffalo’s defensive line is clearly the most explosive when it comes to pass rushing and that shouldn’t change under Rex Ryan. His 3-4 defense thrives on confusing blitz schemes and the firepower along the defensive line will only make the Bills defense that much more volatile. The linebackers may steal a few more sacks due to Ryan’s aggressive play calling, but the line will be tremendous again. I’m curious to see if Ryan moves Mario Williams or Jerry Hughes to a stand-up edge rusher position, or uses a rotation among the four starters from last year.
The Jets’ sack numbers reflect Ryan’s scheme. Wilkerson had a down season by his standards, but is more of a run stopper rather than an elite pass rusher. Richardson brings the explosiveness, but is suspended for the first four games of the season. Damon Harrison is a plug at nose guard and is a two-down run stopper. New head coach Todd Bowles may dial down the blitzing a bit, but his defense shouldn’t be much different from Ryan’s. Leonard Williams will be the key player to watch as he steps in to replace Richardson for the first quarter of the season.
Miami’s defensive line was a big reason it finished 24th against the run last year. The addition of Suh will instantly improve that. While Suh plugs up the middle, Wake and Vernon will be a handful along the edge for opposing offensive tackles. When those two are buzzing like they were at the end of 2014, the entire defense improves dramatically. If Miami gets anything from Jordan Phillips or Dion Jordan, it could be a very deep unit.
The best defensive line in the division is Buffalo’s. The Bills have outstanding rushers along the outside in Mario Williams and Hughes, along with great run-stopping tackles in Williams and Dareus. They will all thrive in Ryan’s system and will supersede potentially shoddy quarterback play.
So that’s three votes for Buffalo and one for New York. It’s clear the AFC East will give opponents plenty of problems along the line of scrimmage. For more coverage of these four teams, be sure to follow Jet Fuel, Pats Fans, Phin Maniacs and Bills Daily on Twitter.
Written by: Ian Logue
Posted at 12:00 pm
As we begin the final stretch before training camp, here’s a daily look at some Patriots on the roster where we’ll individually preview them heading into the 2015 season. In this edition, Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount.
It’s funny how sometimes things work out, and LeGarrette Blount has a million reasons to smile after the way last season ultimately unfolded for the veteran running back.
His midseason return to New England ended up being one of the key reasons the Patriots managed to win it all in Arizona earlier this year, even becoming a threat on special teams and in the kick-return game. He now returns in 2015 with what should be another opportunity for him to become a repeat champion given the talent that they’ll still be fielding on that side of the football.
Blount’s story in 2014 is one that you can’t help but shake your head at, especially considering how his career had seemingly come to an end in Foxboro. After a loss in the AFC Championship Game in Denver in January that year, the Patriots’ run was over and Blount left for Pittsburgh and signed a two-year deal on March 28, 2014.
That left New England to put their trust in Stevan Ridley, who was in a contract season with plenty to prove. Ridley actually ran fairly well through the first five weeks of the season before going down with a torn ACL and MCL in week six against the Bills, leaving the Patriots in tough shape at the running back position.
With Ridley lost for the year, Jonas Gray got the lion’s share of the carries through the next few weeks, including a 37 carry, 201-yard performance in Indianapolis that seemed to be a breakout game for him. But ironically one day later, it would be another event that would ultimately change the course of things for Gray for the rest of the season.
In a Monday night game between Pittsburgh and Tennessee, on November 17, 2014, Blount left the field early during the Steelers win over the Titans after he seemed to be frustrated by his lack of playing time with fellow running back Le’Veon Bell. That evening Bell racked up 204 yards on 33 carries along with a touchdown, while Blount didn’t register a carry. That lead to a contentious situation in Pittsburgh, who subsequently released him.
It ended up being good news for New England, who was able to get him back after the veteran ended up clearing waivers, which opened the door for a reunion in Foxboro.
After Gray overslept and showed up late to the stadium following his performance against the Colts, Blount got more of the playing time from that point on and finished the season with 60 carries for 281 yards and three touchdowns, but it was the postseason where came up big yet again. He tortured the Colts for the second straight year, carrying 30 times for 148 yards along with three touchdowns in the AFC Championship Game during New England’s 45-7 destruction of Indianapolis. He then followed it up with a productive 14 carry 40 yard performance that gave the Seahawks enough of a threat to open up New England’s passing game.
Very few players fall out of favor with their team only to go on to win a Super Bowl ring, but that’s exactly how things worked out for Blount. Now he’ll return in 2015 looking to see if he can’t add a second ring to his collection.
DID YOU KNOW?
Blount has ingrained himself in the record books here in New England during his short stint thanks to his performance against the Colts in the AFC Championship, which gave him seven career postseason touchdowns, giving him the franchise record.
Blount’s three postseason touchdown total was also the most in the NFL in the playoffs this year, ahead of the Colts’ Dan Herron (2), Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (2), Dallas’ DeMarco Murray (2).
Heading into this season Blount will be a spectator in Week 1, with the veteran currently suspended without pay for the season opener following a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. But as it stands right now, he should be in contention to resume his role as the lead running back, with Jonas Gray among several players who will be looking to back him up when training camp opens.
It should be an interesting camp and if Blount remains healthy he’s a bulldozer that makes the Patriots offense extremely dangerous. Tom Brady has been in need of a bruising back and someone to keep opposing defenses honest since the days of when Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon carried the ball during their first three championships.
They may have lost Blount the first time, but after getting him back it’s clear that he’s a good fit here in New England. Hopefully that success continues in 2015.
Written by: Ian Logue
Posted at 6:00 am
As we begin the final stretch before training camp, here’s a daily look at some Patriots on the roster where we’ll individually preview them heading into the 2015 season. Today’s edition, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola.
When Danny Amendola was signed to take over for the departed Wes Welker, the expectations were high for the veteran receiver coming into his first season in New England.
But an injury-riddled first year limited his effectiveness and prevented a breakout year for Amendola, with Julian Edelman instead taking advantage of Amendola’s misfortunes. However, 2014 ended up being one of the most memorable seasons of his career and now he rejoins one of the few position groups returning of all their players this season.
For the second straight season Edelman got off to a fast start and Amendola saw limited action early on in New England’s offense, which didn’t come as much of a surprise considering how his role had diminished the season before.
However, Amendola ended up trying to find ways to help the Patriots win football games, and the veteran receiver did a good job of getting back to the basics and established himself in other areas. By midseason he ended up becoming a terrific and effective return man in the kicking game, with Belichick emphasizing how hard Amendola worked after their win over New York back on October 16th.
“Nobody works harder than Danny does,” said Belichick at the time. “Nobody works harder than Danny. He’s working every day. Offense, scout team, special teams, he always works hard. He’s a really competitive kid…tough, no question about it.”
He maintained that work ethic all season long and took full advantage of what snaps he did play in the offense. By the end of the season, the veteran was playing his best football since joining New England and it was terrific to see him finally coming into his own.
In the postseason, he really shined and came up bigger than the Patriots could have ever hoped for. He tied Rob Gronkowski and Dallas’ Terrance Wilson for the NFL lead in the playoffs with three touchdowns, including the game-tying score against Baltimore on a pass from Edelman, as well as a key fourth quarter touchdown against Seattle that pulled New England to within three at 24-21 and helped spark their come-from-behind championship win over the Seahawks.
One of the biggest problems the Patriots have had in past seasons was their inability to have the third receiver be able to beat one-on-one coverage, especially in the playoffs. Their past years included bringing in older veterans that helped them win from September to December, but by the end of the season they were run down and not able get open in games that mattered in January.
With Brandon LaFell and Edelman playing at a high-level, having a player as good and as athletic as Amendola was a game-changer and he ended up being the key reason why the Patriots finished the year by hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
DID YOU KNOW:
Amendola’s 51-yard reception against the Ravens tied for the fourth longest reception of the postseason, and his five reception, 81-yard and two touchdown performance against Baltimore also marked his first career game with two receiving touchdowns. His first career postseason touchdown came in the second quarter on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in their Divisional showdown against the Ravens, with his second coming on that remarkable pass from Edelman that stunned Baltimore to tie the game and started their championship march.
2014 was a season Amendola desperately needed in order to rebuild his confidence and help him get back to being the player the Patriots thought they signed when they brought him here. During this offseason Amendola restructured his deal to lower his cap number to help him remain with the team, and now he heads into 2015 with an opportunity to build on what was really a storybook finish for him.
Some may feel he’s not as good as Welker or worth the money he was signed for. However, Amendola more than proved his worth by helping Bill Belichick and Brady do something they couldn’t do when Welker was here, and that was win a championship.
Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 16, 2015 at 11:17 am
When you have a player as consistent as Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowsi, it would be tough to imagine looking for a replacement if he hit free agency because the odds are probably pretty good another team would have paid him a lot of money.
Fortunately, it’s not something the Patriots will have to worry about for the foreseeable future.
According to ESPN Boston, New England was able to get a deal done before the deadline on an extension for the veteran kicker, with the two sides reportedly agreeing to a four-year contact worth approximately $17.2 million. Gostkowski had previously signed his one-year franchise tender, but New England had until 4pm Wednesday to reach a long-term deal.
It’s good news as he’s been an unbelievable replacement for former Patriot Adam Vinatieri, who had been a steady contributor before departing for Indianapolis via free agency following the 2005 season. 2014 was one of Gostkowski’s best seasons, with the veteran hitting an NFL-best 35-of-37 field goals (94.6%) which was a career high in accuracy. He also became the seventh kicker to earn 100 points in the postseason and kicked touchbacks on all five of his kickoffs against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Gostkowski has also lead all NFL kickers in points in every season since 2012.
Kickers don’t tend to get a lot of recognition but fortunately the Patriots clearly see the value he gives them. It’s a well-deserved deal for a solid player and fortunately New England has solidified their kicking game for the long-term by extending him.
Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 14, 2015 at 6:00 am
Malcolm Butler may be the Super Bowl hero after his game-clinching interception against the Seahawks back in February, but Dont’a Hightower’s game-saving tackle against Marshawn Lynch the play before was the one that made it possible, playing an intricate part in New England winning their fourth championship.
When the game was over fans learned that Hightower made that play with only one good arm, with the veteran linebacker having undergone surgery this offseason to repair a torn labrum. The initial prognosis didn’t seem promising after it seemed he might be sidelined six to seven months, but it appears that he’s pushing to be out there when the Patriots take the field in the season opener.
Hightower took part in a local football camp in Lowell, Mass on Monday and told ESPN’s Joe McDonald that he’s making progress and so far, everything is going well with his rehabilitation.
“Honestly, I don’t have a target date,” said Hightower. “I’ve seen doc, and everything is going great right now. I’m right on track, if not a little ahead of schedule. It’s something that’s going to take time. I can’t say ‘three weeks’ or whatever. It feels great. I’m doing good. Doc loved everything. He said I’m ahead of schedule, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”
That’s good news considering how valuable he is to New England’s defense. Hightower finished tied for second with Chandler Jones in sacks with six during the regular season in 2014 and also combined for 89 tackles (also second on the team behind Jamie Collins’ 115), 13 quarterback hits (2nd behind Rob Ninkovich’s 16), two passes defensed, and a forced fumble.
In the playoffs he finished second in tackles with 16, as well as a team-leading two tackles for a loss.
For now he’ll have to take it one week at a time, but there’s still plenty of time before the season starts. At this point his road back seems to be going according to plan and if that continues, Hightower hopes he’ll be out there.
“Oh, hell yeah, I wanna play in the first game,” said Hightower. “I wish we could go out and start in a couple of weeks and bang around. It’s just something that takes time. It’s going great.”
Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 9, 2015 at 9:22 am
From the outside, Aaron Rodgers is a hard guy not to root for.
His quiet demeanor and consistent, solid play (his overall career QB Rating of 106.0 leads all NFL QB’s all-time currently) are things that make him endearing to NFL writers who cover him. He’s a guy who always tends to say the right things and he’s also one of the NFL’s classiest players. With all of this in mind, that’s probably why, when it comes to putting a list of top players together, the media favors a younger Rodgers (he’s just 31) over Tom Brady in choosing a player who right now seemingly has a longer shelf-life and on paper might be the more popular choice.
When it comes down to comparing Rodgers with the 37-year old Brady, Brady’s a guy associated with a team that hasn’t had a losing season since 2000 and hasn’t finished with fewer than 10 or more wins since ’02. He’s also associated with a coach who isn’t exactly media friendly and the SpyGate controversy back in 2007 is always fodder for criticism whenever anything negative surrounds this football team.
Factor in a supermodel wife, and Brady’s a player that those who don’t cover him on a regular basis don’t quite seem to understand.
In Green Bay, Rodgers is the opposite of that. He’s not married to a supermodel who brings in more money annually than he does (he’s reportedly dating actress Olivia Munn if you’re wondering…we’ll save you the step of Googling it). But he’s been all the Packers could have hoped for and more since he took over for Brett Favre in 2008, with Rodgers and the Packers winning a Super Bowl championship in 2010. Despite entering his 11th season he still has plenty of good years still ahead of him and he’s coming off of a last-second NFC Championship loss that should have him extremely motivated heading into 2015.
He’s a terrific player. There’s no question about that. But in a league that views success by how players perform in the postseason with playoff victories and Super Bowl rings, the fact Brady fell behind Rodgers – and Andrew Luck for that matter – in some of the recent rankings, including the NFL’s recent top 100, is a little puzzling. Brady’s already a forgotten man after his name has spent the entire offseason being associated with DeflateGate, as well as the fact he’s facing a four-game suspension. Winning a Super Bowl is something that’s so rare and hard to do that it’s still amazing that with little to no proof of any wrongdoing, Brady remains in this position battling the NFL’s punishment after what he managed to accomplish back in February.
As for Luck, we won’t get into how he could be ranked ahead of Brady since the Colts quarterback hasn’t finished a game with a deficit of less than 21 points against New England, yet still believes he can unseat them in 2015. That in itself makes little sense and shouldn’t be open for discussion until he’s able to really challenge Bill Belichick’s football team. But he’s an up and coming player and national writers like that.
When it comes to Rodgers, we could sit here and go back and forth looking at career milestones and accomplishments, but since we’re talking about who is the better player right now, Rodgers should realistically simply be edged out – for this year – in favor of Brady by what happened in the postseason.
This year’s NFC Championship Game is one that’s likely haunting Rodgers this offseason, and it’s one that will stand out as one of Rodgers and the Packers more forgettable moments. Leading 19-7 with five minutes to go, Green Bay had the vast majority of Seahawks fans headed for the exits before doing the unthinkable and imploding, letting Seattle pull off a 15 point comeback en-route to a gut-wrenching 28-22 overtime loss.
It’s hard to fault Rodgers for how those final minutes played out. When he left the field at the 4:00 mark, they held a twelve point lead. But from there he was forced to sit on the sideline while Russell Wilson put together a 7-play, 69 yard drive for the Seahawks first scoring touchdown, followed by an improbable onside kick recovery that lead to a 24-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch to put the Seahawks on top at 22-19 with 1:19 to go in regulation.
Rodgers did lead them down for a tying field goal, but the bigger problem was really the fact the Packers scored 13 first quarter points and then nothing after that, mustering just three field goals over the final three quarters along with completing just 4-of-9 throwing the football in the fourth quarter, which ended up leaving the door open just long enough for the Seahawks to escape.
Brady, meanwhile, against that same Seahawks team, overcame a 10 point 4th quarter deficit while setting a Super Bowl record 37 completions. He also missed just two passes in the final quarter of play, completing 13-of-15 in the fourth quarter with two touchdowns (including a perfect 8-of-8 on his game-clinching touchdown drive to Julian Edelman) against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
He came up big when it mattered most, and it happened with the whispers of DeflateGate eating up a lot of the preparation time for Brady and the Patriots leading up to that game and certainly could have become even more of a distraction than it already was.
But that seems to get little play in the media and the only logical explanation is the fact the anointment of Rodgers continues to happen in hopes that Brady’s inevitable drop off is coming, which seems to have been the trend over the last couple of years. The bad news is every time those whispers start, as we saw after their blowout loss to the Chiefs, Brady takes his play to the next level and he plays like the guy we’ve seen over the last decade.
It’s really simple. When it comes to players like Brady and Rodgers, there’s a parallel that exists and Rodgers’ focus and clutch play mirrors that of Brady. Given the amount of talent Green Bay has, they’ll likely be in the mix in the coming years and it wouldn’t be a shock to see these two battling it out for a Lombardi Trophy at some point.
They’re the two best quarterbacks in the league right now, Brady just happens to be at the top of his game having just won his fourth Super Bowl. There’s no knock out with this decision, it’s the equivalent of two heavyweight boxers going at it and at the end of the day it’s just the scorecard that ends up being the deciding factor.
In this case, a few points one-way is what should make this decision. Someday the debate can begin about who was the better career quarterback and in fairness to Rodgers, it’s a little early to make a real comparison since he still has plenty of time to add to his Super Bowl total and his overall career numbers.
But since it’s based on who’s the better player for 2015, Brady has to be the champ for winning in Arizona this time around. That could certainly change over the next 12 months, and we’ll simply have to wait and see what level they’re both playing at in 2015 before we have this discussion again next year.
Written by: Ian Logue
Posted July 8, 2015 at 8:30 pm
Brandon LaFell may not be a flashy player like Randy Moss or Wes Welker, but there’s no denying his value to the Patriots during their championship run last season.
The veteran wide receiver played a key role in New England’s offense in 2014, carving out a role as one of Tom Brady’s most reliable targets after amassing 74 receptions for 953 yards including a career-high 7 touchdowns.
He got off to a slow start in September after catching just 10 passes in four games, but from there he settled in and became an important part of Brady’s passing attack in an offense that was in dire need of another receiver to take the pressure off of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.
He stepped up in a big way and was a key contributor during the Patriots Super Bowl victory after LaFell finished with four receptions, including New England’s first points against the Seahawks when he hauled in an 11-yard touchdown to put the Patriots up 7-0 early in the second quarter.
Word this offseason was that LaFell was spotted in a walking boot during OTA’s, but it sounds like he’s been making progress with whatever injury he was dealing with.
On Wednesday LaFell told Sirius XM NFL Radio that he’s finally had some time off to let his body finish healing, and he’s looking forward to getting back to work in a few weeks.
“Just a few lingering injuries that happened in the late part of the regular season that I just played through throughout the playoffs,” LaFell told host Bruce Murray via ESPN Boston. “Finally got some time off to let my body heal up properly; I’m out of the boot now and I’m just looking forward to starting camp.”
With LaFell now getting healthy, that’s certainly good news for the Patriots, who return all of their starting receivers in 2015. LaFell should be another key to New England’s success, and with training camp set to start in three weeks, hopefully he’s fully recovered and ready to go when the team starts getting ready for the upcoming season.
Written by: Ian Logue
Posted at 6:01 am
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck appears to be an innocent bystander when it comes to the deflategate controversy set off by his organization, which has dominated the headlines this offseason while also leaving Luck’s nemesis, New England QB Tom Brady, sidelined – for now – for the first four games of the season.
But the veteran QB made a little noise this week after answering fan questions for a forum in London, with Luck saying he’d like to see his team take the next step and knock the Patriots out.
“The Patriots are obviously the defending Super Bowl champs and our defending conference champs so there’s a high amount of respect for that team and what they do,” Luck told BritViewNFL.com. “They’re the kings of the league right now and everybody would like to dethrone them — we’d like to dethrone them but you have to look at the season as 16 games. There are fans and media who will hype up certain games and circle them in red on the calendar but, as a player, you lose sight of what’s important if you get into that mode.”
Luck hasn’t even come close to beating the Patriots in their recent meetings, with New England having scored over 40 points per game in every contest against them. The closest margin? Their postseason match-up in 2014 when New England beat them by a paltry 21 points in a 43-22 Divisional Playoff win back on January 11, 2014.
The fourth-year quarterback is just 25-years old and he’s off to a solid start during the regular season, having amassed a career record of 33-15 after three straight seasons of finishing 11-5. However, he’s just 3-3 in the postseason, including two blowout losses to New England in each of the last two years. The most recent one should definitely be fresh in his mind after Tom Brady and the Patriots handed his team a 45-7 beating back in January, which included a second half clinic that saw New England outscore them 28-0 with perfectly inflated footballs.
To add insult to injury, Luck didn’t play well in that game against Bill Belichick’s defense, completing just 12-of-33 (36%) throwing the football including two interceptions while his team converted a measly 3-of-11 (27%) on third down.
If he plans on knocking off the Patriots, both he and his football team have a long way to go to get there.
For now Luck is confident, and he thinks his team has a shot to be in the mix in 2015.
“I’d like to think that we can get better and improve on 2014,” said Luck. “That’s the goal for every team when hope springs eternal during the off-season. It’s everybody’s goal to go out and win the Super Bowl — I’d like to think we have a realistic chance. We certainly have the guys to get it done, the coaching staff and the support so that’s what we’re working for.”
Unfortunately the only problem if that happens is the road there may once again pass through Foxboro and after everything Brady’s been through this offseason, that’s certainly not going to help Luck’s chances.