Archive for September 12th, 2010

Positives & Negatives From Sunday’s Game

Coming into Sunday’s game there were plenty of question marks for the Patriots on both sides of the football, with the biggest one being how New England’s secondary would hold up against the Bengals offensive attack of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, who were matched up against Darius Butler and rookie Devin McCourty.

It worked out pretty well, with the Pats defense shutting down Cincinnati in the first two quarters of play and taking a 24-3 lead in at the half.  Taking another look back at Sunday’s game, here is a weekly feature where we highlight who had a good day on the field, and who will be hoping for a better performance next week as we break down New England’s 38-24 win over the Bengals.

Positives From the Game:

Tracy White - The newly acquired linebacker made a good first impression with his new team on Sunday, getting off to a good start by making a big hit on the opening kick return.

Devin McCourty – The Bengals wasted no time testing him and went right at the rookie, throwing deep to Owens on the first play of the game but McCourty got his hand in there and knocked it away.  They went right back at him with Owens on the next play, this time gaining 14-yards on the completion.  But other than that one big gain, things were fairly quiet on his side of the field.  He made some noise of his own later on when he put a big hit on Carson Palmer to knock him out of bounds as Palmer tried to run it in for a touchdown.   He was also in on a tackle on special teams.

Gary Guyton - Quite a few people were surprised that Guyton got the nod over rookie Brandon Spikes, but he delivered.  After not having an interception made by a linebacker all last season, Guyton made a great read on Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham coming accross and picked off Palmer, running it all the way back 59 yards for the touchdown.  Palmer was the last guy to try and bring him down, but Guyton pulled away and scored.

Wes Welker – Quarterback Tom Brady went to Welker on the first play from scrimmage, picking up 5-yards on the play and getting the veteran’s feet wet right away.  It worked well because he later caught a touchdown on that drive to give the Patriots the early 7-0 lead, with both rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski blocking downfield on the play, which opened up the way for him to get into the endzone.

He later caught another touchdown but got drilled at the goal line right as he caught it, which lead to a challenge by Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.  After review it was ruled that Welker had the ball at his chest and that it broke the plane, so the play stood and it put New England up 17-0.

Fred Taylor - Got the start carrying the football Sunday, finishing with 14 carries for 71-yards (5.1 avg) on the afternoon.  He also had a great blitz pickup which helped on a big gain by rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Aaron Hernandez – The rookie had a decent first game, with his first regular season NFL catch gaining him 45-yards.  He could have also had a touchdown reception, but couldn’t quite haul in a pass from Brady as he was falling on his back.

Patrick Chung – Chung made a lot of big hits during the game, and also made a great read where he came up and stopped Bengals runningback Cedric Benson cold for a loss on Cincinnati’s second drive.  He lead the team with 16 tackles on the afternoon.

Brandon Tate – Tate handled the majority of punt and kick returns on Sunday, including one where he stutter-stepped and then took off for a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half, putting them up 31-3.  It was the Patriots’ first kickoff return for a touchdown since Ellis Hobbs did it back in 2008.

Rob Ninkovich – Forced a fumble, and even made a good heads up play by getting back up and helping gain some extra yards after recovering the football.  It should have lead to a field goal, but Stephen Gostkowski missed a 47-yard attempt wide left.

Tully Banta-Cain - Was in on quite a few blitzes, and had a tackle for a loss on Cedric Benson on the first play from scrimmage on the Bengals fourth possession.  He finished the afternoon with 4-tackles, half-a-sack, and 2 quarterback hits.  He was also part of a great start by the defense on the opening drive, with Vince Wilfork pushing the middle and getting to Palmer, with Banta-Cain also helping Myron Pryor bring him down on 3rd and short – forcing a punt.

Darius Butler – Played really well opposite McCourty, and up until late in the game when New England was up by a large margin he did a good job against both Owens and Chad Ochocinco – although there will be some trash talking on Twitter after the Bengals veteran receiver beat him on a 28-yard touchdown grab.

Rob Gronkowski - He  had a great day with Hernandez blocking, and also made a nice leaping touchdown grab in the corner of the endzone where he actually twisted around in mid-air to make the catch which put New england up 38-17.  It also capped a 14-play scoring drive and essentially sealed the win for the Patriots. 

Negatives From the Game:

Kevin Faulk – Mixed reviews for the veteran, who had a tough break on their second drive when he was unable to haul in a pass where he was wide open on third down, which stalled the drive and forced them to instead kick a field goal.  Faulk later had another drop as the Patriots were trying to pick up the first down on a 3rd and long play, but not only couldn’t he come up with it, he also got drilled on the play.  New England then missed the 47-yard field goal.

Stephen Gostkowski – It was an off day for the veteran placekicker.  He  missed two field goals on the afternoon, including that 47-yarder along with one from 56 yards out just before the half.

James Sanders - Sanders seemed to struggle Sunday and a couple of times seemed like he was out of position.  To make matters worse, on one of the times he was actually where he needed to be it still didn’t matter, after he was simply at a height disadvantage and gave up a touchdown grab to Gresham. Palmer put the pass right where the 6’5″ Gresham could easily outreach Sanders, who at 5’10″ had no chance of stopping  him.

Dan Koppen - He was called for a holding penalty which nullified a 15-yard completion on third down to Alge Crumpler.  Not a great time for a mistake like from a veteran, and it would end up leading to a New England punt.

GAME NOTES:   Stephen Neal left Sunday’s game with an apparent injury, with Ryan Wendell replacing him. Luckily Neal would end up being O.K. and later returned and finished the game…Welker didn’t have a TD catch in the last nine games last year, and had two today….BenJarvus Green-Ellis replaced Taylor at one point and filled in nicely, carrying 5-times for 22-yards (4.4 avg).  Taylor later came back and finished the game….Zoltan Mesko’s first punt of the game came with just over 5:00 left in the third quarter, and was for 44-Yards…Tom Brady had a solid first outing, finishing the afternoon 25-of-35 for 258 yards, 3 TD’s and a QB rating of 120.9….Tate continued to have success on kick returns, finishing the afternoon with four kickoff returns which totalled 184 yards, 97 of which came on his touchdown return…New England finished 9-of-13 (69%) on third down Sunday, and were 3-of-5 (60%) in Red Zone efficiency.

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A Successful Return For Welker

Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker spent the entire offseason trying to overcome the odds and make his way back onto the field in time for the 2010 season.

Mission accomplished, and what a performance it was.

Welker started Sunday’s game against the Bengals, and finished with 8-catches for 64-yards including two touchdown receptions, picking up right where he left off last year and didn’t look like he was showing any ill-effects from his surgically repaired knee.

One of his touchdown receptions was certainly earned, after he got drilled right after making the catch at the goal line for his second scoring grab. On the play the Bengals challenged it, but the replay showed that he had the ball at his chest so it was ruled the ball broke the plane so the play stood.

Welker said after the game that even he didn’t expect his return to start off with a visit to the endzone.

“I really didn’t expect to lead off the season scoring a touchdown on our first drive,” said Welker. “It’s definitely kind of a special deal. All the adversity and everything I’ve had to go through this offseason to get where I’m at, to score on the opening drive was definitely a cool thing.”

After the game Belichick talked briefly about Welker, saying he was happy for the veteran and how the game turned out for everybody.

“I’m happy for Wes, happy for the whole team, happy for everybody,” said Belichick.

“You can’t say enough about him. He’s worked really hard and you’ve got to be happy for the success that he had but happier still for the team’s success.”

Quarterback Tom Brady spent a lot of time this offseason with Welker, throwing passes to him when the two worked out in California while the veteran receiver was rehabilitating his knee following his surgery. After hitting him for that first touchdown, he was excited to see that all their hard work had paid off.

“It was awesome,” said Brady about Welker scoring on that first drive. “I spent a lot of time with him this offseason, and the determination that he has is pretty remarkable.”

According to Brady, there was never any doubt about whether or not Welker would be out there today.

“He’s an extremely mentally tough person,” said Brady. “I knew in March that he was going to be back out on the field for opening day. It just goes to show what his mind’s all about, he’s really overcome a lot in his career and this thing’s only going to make him better.”

Welker also said there was never any doubt he’d make it back, and being ready for week one has always his goal.

“This was always my goal, to get back for week one, if not even sooner,” said Welker. “I didn’t know how much I’d play week one or anything, but I knew I wanted to be back and try and contribute to the team winning. We were able to accomplish that, so it’s on to the next step.”

“I had it pretty much instilled in my mind that I would be back. There were different scenarios that were talked about, with the [Physically Unable to Perform List], and save my body, and different things like that, but that’s just not in me. I can’t do that and sit there and watch my team out there playing and sit there and just workout all day. I was sick of it and I ready to get out there and play.”

It’s worth noting that in the final nine games of last season Welker was held without a touchdown reception, yet he had two this afternoon. Coming off of what he said earlier this year was one of the toughest offseasons he’s faced, after Sunday’s performance Welker likely eliminated any doubts fans may have had about how effective he’d be for New England this season.

Now it’s on to the Jets next Sunday at the Meadowlands, with kickoff scheduled for 4:15pm. In the meantime Belichick is going to savor this game and the fact his team is off to a 1-0 start.

“We’re going to New York,” said Belichick. “We know that’s a big challenge for us next week but we’re going to enjoy this one for a while.”

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More Patriots PreGame Notes

Twitter is buzzing his morning as we close in on game time, and here are some notes from some of the news that has become available:

  • Despite being a home game, the Patriots are reportedly in their white jerseys today, with the Bengals wearing their black jerseys.
     
  • Mike Reiss reports that in pre-game warmups, Patrick Chung and James Sanders lined up with the top group at safety. Also, Rob Ninkovich appears to be working at left OLB.
     
  • It had been raining earlier today in Foxboro, so one thing to keep an eye on may be the number of snaps that Welker gets during today’s game depending on the condition of the field.  Wet weather isn’t great for footing, and obviously they’ll likely be cautious with him.
     
  • What should have been a day of excitement and fun appears to have turned out badly for one family this morning.  According to Shalise Manza Young on Twitter, a fan collapsed at the stadium and was taken away in an ambulance.

“Sad scene unfolding here – multiple medical personnel tending to fan taken out of the stands, have used defibrilator, ambulance coming out,” Tweeted Young.

Our thoughts from all of us at the Morning Buzz go out to that fan and their family.

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Just when you thought that the Mankins deal was dead, two weeks ago apparently it wasn’t.

Now it appears that it definitely is, and it looks like Mankins days in New England are likely over.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the two sides nearly consumated a deal but it was killed over a request by the Patriots for a public apology by the veteran offensive lineman.

Things had initially gone fairly well, after Patriots brass reportedly asked Mankins to apologize to owner Robert Kraft, which he did and the two even had a good conversation that appeared to pave the way toward getting a deal done with the veteran offensive lineman.

However, after that request, according to Schefter the team then asked that Mankins make a public apology, which he was offended by and the relationship between the two sides is now at the point of no return – which will likely now force a trade. This actually won’t be easy, since working out compensation to satisfy the two sides will likely be a difficult issue to agree on.

Hard to believe they went from being so close to where they are now. Unfortunately after this final attempt, it looks like we’ve probably seen the last of Mankins on the field for the Patriots.

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Edelman, Maroney Among Today’s Inactives

The Patriots just released today’s inactives, which includes WR Julain Edelman, WR Taylor Price, DB Terrence Wheatley, RB Laurence Maroney, WR Dane Fletcher, T Steve Maneri, DL Brandon Deaderick & G Nick Kaczur.

Edelman was reportedly seen down on the field with trainers testing his injured foot, but apparently it didn’t go well enough and they decided to hold him out for this week.

As for Maroney, he’s been banged up through training camp so it looks like they’ll keep him out one more week in hopes he’ll be healthier heading into next week’s game against the Jets at the Meadowlands.

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Patriots Game Day Live Released for the iPhone

The New England Patriots and YinzCam Inc have released an exclusive game day app for the iPhone/iPodTouch and Droid. The app is available within the WiFi area of the Fidelity Investments Clubhouse at Gillette Stadium and is for premium seating members only.

Some of the features are:

  • Replay Channel
  • NFL Redzone
  • 4 Different Camera Angles for the game live
  • Real-time States

One of the topics of discussion this offseason has been how NFL team’s are trying to improve the game day experience for the fans at the stadium. For now this appears to be just available for premium members, and obviously limits the number of fans who can utilize it.

At least it’s a start, and it does appear to have some good features which could make things a little more interesting for those who are able to take advantage of the added camera vantage points and data that’s available. If anyone has actually had a chance to try it, be sure and post your comments below and tell us about it.

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WR Edelman a Game Time Decision

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports that wide receiver Edelman appears to be a game time decision for today’s game against the Bengals.

According to Reiss Edelman was seen testing his foot around 10:15am while members of the Patriots medical staff looked on. 

If he can’t go, New England would need to hopefully see guys like Taylor Price or Brandon Tate step up this afternoon, as they’ll need someone to fill the void left by Edelman’s absence at the #3 receiver spot.

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Sunday Patriots Gameday Headlines

It’s finally time for some football as the Patriots will take on the Cincinnati Bengals this afternoon to kick off the 2010 regular season, with kickoff scheduled for 1:00pm down at Gillette Stadium.

We’ll have plenty throughout the day here, so be sure and check back frequently for updates.  In the meantime here are the best of today’s headlines.

Firin’ up the Sunday Morning Tailgate – Albert Breer of the Boston Globe offers up some articles from the newspaper to get you ready for this afternoon’s game.

Rarin’ to Go – Ian Rapoport offers up a piece with some quick looks at several different topics, including the fact that opening day is the toughest game to get ready for. 

“Opening day is always the toughest day,” Belichick said. “There is just so much uncertainty with where your team is, what your opponent is going to do. There are a lot of possibilities. I think once you get into the second, third, fourth game, you start to see what teams are, what they try to do, where they are strong, where they’re weak. What they’re trying to shore up and where they’re trying to attack. It makes it fun, but it gives a coach the butterflies.”

Getting to know Jarrad Page – Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe has more on the recently acquired safety.

Patriots Will Have Their Hands Full in This Season Opener – Jeff Howe of NESN.com has a live blog today, along with a scouting report for the game.

Patriots, Bengals can Back Up Trash Talk – Rich Garven of the Worcester Telegram looks at the war of words that went on this week, and takes an in-depth look at Ochocinco and the Patriots secondary.

A Sense of Uneasiness About the Patriots – Garven also has five questions that make today’s game more difficult than fans may be expecting.

Now We’ll Open It Up to Questions – Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe points out the last memory we have of the Patriots is a bad one, and wonders what the 2010 season will bring.

Pass, Fail? – John Powers of the Boston Globe feels that the Bengals receivers, ”may take the Patriots secondary to school” this afternoon.

Getcha Popcorn Ready – Mark Farinella of the Attleboro Sun Chronicle feels that the Pats-Bengals game “could be a barnburner”.

FARINELLA: Let’s See if This Crystal Ball Works – Farinella makes his picks for this season.

Offense Remains Bread-and-Butter – Farinella feels the offense will likely carry the day today against Cincinnati.

Rolling the Dice With An Unproven Defense – Farinella writes that the team has committed to who they have, and there’s no turning back now.

Bengals at Patriots – Jim McBride of the Globe has a scouting report for today’s game.

Wes Welker Scores Goal - Ian Rapoport has a great piece on Wes Welker, who has acheived his ultimate goal of being ready to play today, and his family will be on hand to watch it.

Tully Banta-Cain holds up as “leader of the sack” – Ron Borges (who has been a busy guy this week) has a good piece on Banta-Cain and hopes he can also get a little help from his friends in getting to the quarterback this season.

Patriots Ready to Kick off – Karen Guregian looks at today’s game, with the obvious question being how the secondary will deal with Cincy’s passing attack.

That’s it for this morning.  We’ll have pregame notes coming up shortly.

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