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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.

Jonas Gray Makes a Little NFL History With His Performance Sunday Night


Jonas Gray accomplished a rare feat during the Patriots win over Indy. (USA TODAY Images)

Patriots running back Jonas Gray obviously made quite a bit of noise on Sunday night following his 4-touchdown performance against the Indianapolis Colts, but he also managed to put himself into the NFL record books.

According to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, Gray now stands as the first player since at least 1940 to rush for as many touchdowns as the rest of the NFL’s rushers combined in a given week.

Wesseling points out that only Kansas City running backs Jamaal Charles (2) and Knile Davis (1), along with Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy (1) scored rushing touchdowns on Sunday, with that combined total matching Gray’s.  That could change Monday night should someone from the Pittsburgh Steelers or Tennessee Titans rush for a score, but either way it shouldn’t diminish his accomplishment.

Another stat highlighted was the fact that Gray’s four-touchdown outing was the first by a player without a previous NFL touchdown since 1921.

Gray carried 38 times for 199 yards during Sunday night’s win, which included the team converting 9-of-12 (75%) 3rd downs along with 33 first downs total, 17 of which were via the rush.  Gray accounted for 15 of them.

He also scored each of his touchdowns through four different gaps, scoring over Right Guard (1st) , up the Middle (2nd), over Right Tackle (3rd) and over Left Tackle: (4th).

Sunday night’s win over Indianapolis wasn’t his best performance, but credit Tom Brady for bouncing back with a second half that allowed the Patriots to pull away after their 42-20 rout over the Colts.

Brady didn’t play well in the first half, completing 10-of-19 (53%) for 84 yards and two interceptions, including one before the half where he came off a play-action pass and made an ill-advised downfield throw to Rob Gronkowski that was badly underthrown and was picked off, giving the Colts the football at the Patriots’ 23-yard line.


Tom Brady bounced back after a rough first half against the Colts on Sunday night.
(USA TODAY Images)

Three plays later the Colts scored, taking away what had been a 14-3 lead as the Colts had pulled to within four at the half.

But in the second half Brady was razor sharp, completing 9-of-11 for 173-yards and two touchdowns as the team pulled away from Indianapolis and left him as a spectator by the time it was over.  With just over four minutes to go and leading by 22 Brady watched Jimmy Garoppolo hand the football off five straight times while Jonas Gray finished up a stellar four touchdown, 199-yard night, before the rookie quarterback knelt down to kill the clock and close out the game.

After it was over, Brady admitted the turnover before the half was a “dumb” throw.

“It was just a bad play,” said Brady. “It was a no-look throw, which those don’t ever end up very good. I thought I had a good look pre-snap and (Rob) Gronkowski got through there but I just put too much air on the ball and ended up lobbing it right to Mike (Adams). Hopefully there is no more of those this year.”

“You hate to let them back in there like that. It’s kind of a momentum play, and it was just not a good one. That doesn’t happen very often, so I’m not overly concerned about it. It was just a dumb play.”

With the team running the football well, Brady credited the offensive line, which opened up holes for Gray all night and helped keep Indianapolis off balance.  They did a good job moving the football offensively and kept themselves in manageable situations, having faced just two plays of beyond six yards on third down all night.  As a result they finished 9-of-12 (75%), which was a big key to their success.

Brady admitted that was exactly what they needed, and that things are always easier when they’re controlling what they want to do and he’s pleased with how they performed as they improved to 8-2.

“We’re playing well, playing on our terms,” said Brady. “We did a much better job protecting the ball there in the second half. We made a lot of big time third downs, some big time run after catches. The defense stepped up. It was great to see the defense play like that especially when they kind of backed them up against the wall and kind of closed it out, finished strong. It was exactly what we needed.”


Jonas Gray came up big during the Patriots win over the Colts Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)

Ever since Stevan Ridley went down with a knee injury back in week six against the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots have been in need of someone stepping up in the ground game.

They’ve gotten limited production from that standpoint, relying primarily on a rotation that has included Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen and James White, none of which had provided much of an impact to this point heading into their match-up against the Colts Sunday night.

That all changed against Indianapolis after a massive performance by Gray during the team’s 42-20 road win.


Gray scored twice in the first half, and twice during the second half during the Patriots 42-20 win over Indianapolis.
(USA TODAY Images)

In the game Gray came out focused and while racking up 100-yards in the first half on 14 carries, including reaching the end zone twice while the team fought through a mistake-ridden opening two quarters that had them up by just four at 14-10 at the intermission.

When they hit the field in the second half, it was a completely different story.  Gray picked up right where he left off and it had the Colts completely off balance, allowing Tom Brady to bounce back from throwing two interceptions in the first half.  With Indianapolis looking at Gray things opened up for New England’s offense, allowing Brady to pick them apart and missing just two throws in a second half where he was 9-of-11 for 173 yards and two touchdowns.

Gray, meanwhile, kept chugging along, piling up 99-yards while reaching the end zone twice.  However, Bill Belichick said after last week’s game that, “It’s not about a bunch of stats and stats this and stats that,” pointing out he didn’t care about any one individual player’s stats.  After carrying five straight times to close out the game, the team had Jimmy Garoppolo kneel and kill the clock, leaving Gray one yard shy of the 200-yard mark.

After the game Belichick wasn’t surprised by what he had seen from Gray, noting that the running back has been working hard.

“He did that for us in preseason,” said Belichick. “He does it for us every day out there on the practice field and works hard. I thought he ran hard tonight, real hard.”

Gray’s 38 carries were obviously the most he’s seen to this point, having had just 11 offensive snaps against the Jets, 28 against the Bears, and 22 during their win over Denver.  During that span he carried the football 32 times for 131 yards but had yet to really establish himself as the team’s lead back.  That obviously changed against the Colts, but Belichick noted that part of the reason for Gray’s success has simply been his steady approach, which is what we saw from him for four quarters Sunday night.

“He’s just a smart, hard-working kid,” said Belichick. “He’s got good power. He runs hard. His game is what we saw tonight. That’s what it was in college, and we talked to Coach Kelly and some of the other players at Notre Dame that we had on our team or that were familiar with Jonas and they all kind of said the same thing. That’s just what we saw.

“But he works hard every day. It’s not any one thing or one great epiphany. It’s just something that he comes to work every day, does his thing and gets better. Things he needs to work on, things the coach thinks he needs to improve on, splits his pickoff, his assignments in the passing game, his reads in the running game, and he’s gotten a lot better at those.”

And as a result, heading into their final six games, the Patriots now potentially seem to have a real threat out of the backfield.

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.

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

Patriots Part of Eight Teams Making NFL History So Far


Brady and the Patriots are one of just a handful of teams with a strong winning percentage at this point in the season, putting them in the NFL record books. (USA TODAY Images)

Considering how the year started out for the Patriots, it’s hard to believe that they’re sitting in great shape at 7-2 heading into Sunday’s match-up against the Colts.

However, their record, along with the Colts (6-3), has them in a tight group of teams who put themselves in the NFL record books thanks to their success at this point in the year.

According to a fact from the Elias Sports Bureau that was mentioned by ESPN this afternoon, the Patriots are one of eight teams with a winning percentage of .667 or better who for the first time at this point in the season will be battling each other this weekend.  It’s the first time in NFL history that four games have featured eight teams with that percentage or better facing off this late in the year.

The other games include:

Seahawks (6-3) at Chiefs (6-3)
Eagles (7-2) at Packers (6-3)
Lions (7-2) at Cardinals (8-1)
Patriots (7-2) at Colts (6-3)

The Patriots were off last week during their bye week following their huge 43-21 win over Denver back on November 2nd, 2014.

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.


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