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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):

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

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:


Tom Brady: 3-of-3 (100%) 3 TD’s

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

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.


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

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

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


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


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.

Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman Set Milestones In Win Over Broncos

Julian Edelman set a franchise record with his fourth career punt return for a touchdown against the Broncos at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

Sunday’s win over the Broncos set a variety of milestones for several Patriots players, with some significant marks reached for each of them.

Here’s a quick rundown of what they accomplished against Denver:

  • Tom Brady continues his assault on the NFL record books, making his 200th career NFL start, making him just the 8th player to reach that milestone.
  • With 3:36 to go in the 3rd quarter, Brady completed a 6-yard pass to Julian Edelman, which at the time gave him 51,478 career passing yards, moving him ahead of John Elway for 5th in NFL history.
  • Later on that drive he hit Rob Gronkowski on a 20-yard completion from the Broncos’ 21-yard line, giving him¬†300-yards on the game, which is the 62nd time of his career he threw for that total and tied him for 4th most all time with Brett Favre.
  • One play later he hit Gronkowski for a 1-yard touchdown pass, giving him his 22nd career game with four¬†or more touchdown passes, moving him past Dan Marino for 4th most all-time.
  • Speaking of Gronkowski, that reception was his 50th career receiving touchdown, tying the franchise record for a tight end with former Patriot Ben Coates. ¬†Gronkowski also tied Randy Moss for the 2nd fastest amount of games to reach that mark, with Gronkowski getting there in just 59 games. He later went over 100-yards for the 15th time in his career, extending his Patriots record for a tight end.
  • Meanwhile Julian Edelman also got into the record books. His 84-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter was his 4th career punt return for a score, which now gives him the franchise record for that mark.

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.


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.

Lost in the Shuffle: Brady and Wright Razor Sharp Thus Far

So far Tom Brady and Tim Wright have been razor sharp this season. (USA TODAY Images)

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski may be getting the majority of attention in the passing game thanks to the big plays he makes and his importance in opening up opportunities for other players, but the guy lining up on the other side this season hasn’t exactly been that bad so far through eight games.

Tight end Tim Wright, the player acquired thanks to the Logan Mankins trade to the Buccaneers, has played unbelievably well so far and has quietly gotten off to a strong start with his new quarterback.  Tom Brady has targeted him 18 times so far this season while connecting 17 times for 182 yards and three touchdowns .  Twelve of those receptions have resulted in first downs, including his three scores.

His last incompletion to Wright was back in Week 2 against Minnesota on a fourth-and-eight play at the Vikings’ 19-yard line with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, his only target¬†in that contest. ¬†Since then he’s 14-of-14 for 167 yards, 11 first downs, including¬†his touchdowns.

Here’s a full breakdown of his numbers through the first eight games:

Tim Wright’s Totals:

Total: 17-of-18, 182 yards, 3 TD’s

Totals By Down:
1st Down: 10-of-10 for 116 yards, 2 TD’s
2nd Down: 4-of-4 for 38 yards, 1 TD
3rd Down: 3-of-3 for 28 yards
4th Down: 0-of-1

Red Zone Totals:
3-of-4 for 33 yards, 3 TD’s

ANALYSIS: At the time it was hard not to be a little apprehensive about the Mankins trade, but at the same time, it was also difficult to believe Bill Belichick would have made the move without feeling like Wright could bring something to this offense. ¬†So far he’s done a good job through the first half of the season and as Rob Gronkowski continues getting healthy along with the success we’ve seen from Brandon LaFell, it’s hard not to believe that Wright will continue to improve. ¬†One of the biggest issues new players sometimes have has been their ability to get comfortable with the system¬†here in New England, but fortunately for now Wright has been one of their more reliable targets in this offense.

Patriots Passing Game Finally Connecting Down the Field

Rob Gronkowski has been a dangerous threat down field the last four games. (USA TODAY Images)

Critics were all over Patriots quarterback Tom Brady through the first four games of the season but as they head into Sunday’s showdown with the Broncos, Brady and the offense are starting to become fairly dangerous when it comes to getting the ball down the field.

Brady had little luck getting on deep throws during the first four weeks, completing just 4-of-28 (14%) on passes of over 15 yards, including a combined 0-of-9 down the deep left part of the field to Brandon LaFell (0-for-6), Kenbrell Thompkins (0-for-2) and Rob Gronkowski (0-for-1).

However, over the last four games it’s been a different story. ¬†Brady’s success rate has risen dramatically, having completed 17-of-27 (63%) on those attempts¬†and looking closer¬†it’s pretty obvious that he’s starting to get more in sync with Brandon LaFell and Rob Gronkowski, both of whom got off to a slow start.

He’s been lethal when targeting both players down the middle of the field, hitting on 4-of-4 to Gronkowski for 74 yards and 3-of-3 to LaFell for 60 yards.

Here’s a breakdown by zone and player through weeks 1-4, as well as weeks 5-8:

WEEKS 1-4:


Tom Brady’s Overall Passing Totals for Weeks 1-4:
Weeks 1-4: 81-of-137 (59%) 791-yards 9 Sacks, 4 TD’s 2 INT’s

Receiving Totals on Deep Throws:

DEEP LEFT: 1-of-13 44yds
Julian Edelman: 1-of-4 44yds
Brandon LaFell: 0-of-6
Kenbrell Thompkins: 0-of-2
Rob Gronkowski: 0-of-1

DEEP MIDDLE: 2-of-6 43yds
Rob Gronkowski: 1-of-2 22yds
Julian Edelman: 1-of-1 21yds
Brandon LaFell: 0-of-3

DEEP RIGHT: 1-of-9 18yds
Rob Gronkowski: 1-of-4 18yds
Julian Edelman: 0-of-3
Shane Vereen: 0-of-1
Danny Amendola: 0-of-1

WEEKS 5-8:


Tom Brady’s Overall Passing Totals for Weeks 5-8:
Weeks 5-8:¬†100-of-144 (69%) 1268-yards 4 Sacks 14 TD’s 0 INT’s

Receiving Totals on Deep Throws:

DEEP LEFT: 4-of-8 86-yards 1 TD
Tim Wright: 1-of-1 30-yards
Rob Gronkowski: 1-of-2 20-yards
Danny Amendola: 1-of-2 19-yards 1 TD
Brandon LaFell: 1-of-3 17-yards

DEEP MIDDLE: 9-of-11 202-yards 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski: 4-of-4 74-yards
Brandon LaFell: 3-of-3 60-yards
Brian Tyms: 1-of-2 43-yards 1 TD
Tim Wright: 1-of-1 25-yards
Julian Edelman: 0-of-1

DEEP RIGHT: 4-of-8 154-yards 2 TD
Brandon LaFell: 1-of-2 56-yards 1 TD
Shane Vereen: 1-of-1 49-yards 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski: 1-of-2 33-yards
Julian Edelman: 1-of-3 16-yards

ANALYSIS: Part of the likely reason for Brady’s improvement has been the fact he’s gotten better protection over the previous four contests than he was early on, having been sacked just four times compared to nine over the first four games. ¬†We’ve also seen a change in Brady’s confidence level in LaFell, which considering the dynamic created by their success connecting in the passing game is starting to have a significant impact on the offense. ¬†

Since the departure of Randy Moss, New England’s ability to strike down field has been an area of contention for a while now and it’s been good to see the Patriots start having more success in opening up the deeper part of the field considering they’ve been known as a team that tends to throw underneath, which against better competition has limited what they’ve been able to do in year’s past. ¬†Hopefully what’s transpired over the past four games is¬†a trend that continues in the weeks to come.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been fortunate the Buccaneers have been so bad in recent years, because he’s been able to pluck some pretty good players off their roster.

If all goes well, the deal they made on Tuesday for linebacker Jonathan Casillas will hopefully keep that tradition going.

The Patriots have had good luck trading for Buccaneers players in the past and hopefully Jonathan Casillas continues that tradition.
(USA TODAY Images)

Casillas adds depth at the linebacker spot for a team that is in need of some additional help defensively after losing Jerod Mayo a couple of weeks ago, along with the fact that Chandler Jones is set to potentially miss a month or more, according to several reports.  They already traded a sixth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans for linebacker Akeem Ayers last week, and Casillas marks the second defensive addition to the team.

It’s an interesting move as while Casillas is not a super star by any means, he’s a guy who has a history of being a special teams standout (he actually¬†recovered an onside kick at the start of the second half of Super Bowl XLIV, helping the Saints beat the Colts) and should be able to¬†give them a little extra help on the defensive side of the football in sub packages.

He hasn’t seen much time on the field this season, having appeared in just five games for Tampa Bay in 2014 while totaling 9 tackles and zero sacks. He’s been inactive for each of the Buccaneers‚Äô past two games, but does have¬†three starts on the year.

Given the success with some of the players they’ve taken from Tampa Bay’s roster, it will be interesting to see how he fits in. He’s not a flashy player but fans in New England also knew little about players like¬†Aqib Talib or LeGarrette Blount, both of whom were acquired via trade from the Bucs and ultimately made significant contributions during their time here. ¬†Tim Wright, who was acquired in a deal that sent Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers before the start of the season, got off to a slow start but he’s quietly becoming an important part of the Patriots’ offense, having caught his third touchdown of the year in Sunday’s win over Chicago.

As a result, Belichick must have seen something in Casillas¬†to send the Buccaneers a fifth round pick for his services. ¬†Hopefully he’ll turn out to be as good as some of those past players they’ve added previously, because as the Patriots get set to start the second half of their season, they could certainly use all the help they can get.

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