Archive for September 27th, 2010

Monday Morning Patriots Buzz Links

The day after the Patriots 38-30 win over the Bills, after taking a trip around the internet this morning here are some good articles for you to check out if you haven’t read them already.

Christopher Price of WEEI.com has “10 Things We Learned From Yesterday”, and feels that right now, it’s all on the offense.

Jeff Howe of NESN.com has an article on Kyle Arrington, who he writes made the most of his playing time during yesterday’s 38-30 win over the Bills.

Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com breaks down yesterday’s first quarter of play, analyzing each possession and giving his take of what happened.  It’s a good read, so be sure to check it out.

Ron Borges of the Boston Herald writes that, “Some guys are studs. Others are stubs. Danny Woodhead? Maybe he’s both.

Albert Breer of the Boston Globe writes that it’s a good thing the Patriots gave Tom Brady a contract extension, because this season may prove that he’s more valuable than ever since they’ll need him to help carry their young defense in the coming months.

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe writes that Woodhead ended up being a big help to New England’s offense, although he couldn’t see him as he was surrounded by reporters and wonders if that’s what it was like for the Bills when he was lined up behind the Patriots offensive line.

Tim Forseberg of ESPNBoston.com writes that if the energy level of the crowd at Gillette Stadium is concerning Brady, he learned Sunday there’s an easy solution to that problem: Give them something to cheer about.

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com takes a look at yesterday’s game and says that the Patriots victory was obviously needed, yet it still doesn’t mask their problems on the defensive side of the football.

Monique Walker of the Globe has a blog entry this morning with quotes from Brady’s interview this morning on WEEI, with Brady saying he’s got a lot of confidence with the guys on the defensive side of the football.

“The defense is opportunistic. They made a couple of big plays there at the end which we really needed. You’re right, they are a bit younger than the offense and the offense should feel like it has more responsibility in terms of playing with situational football and so forth.
 
“The thing about the defense is they have a lot of talented players. They’re all first and second round picks over there, it’s not like they can’t play. Playing against them in training camp, I know the kind of plays they can make, so you’re right, I think not having quite the experience as the offense is one thing. Having the youth and excitement, it’s a very fast defense that can make some plays and I have a lot of confidence in those guys. “

Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald has a column this morning talking about the crowd yesterday at Gillette Stadium, with a story of an interesting incident that took place in the club seats during the Patriots 38-30 win over the Bills.

Bill Burt of the Lawrence Eagle Tribune writes that the biggest enemy the Patriots may be facing this season is the schedule.

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com takes a look at yesterday’s game and says that the Patriots victory was obviously needed, yet it still doesn’t mask their problems on the defensive side of the football.

Reiss also writes that BenJarvus Green-Ellis stepped up at the right time yesterday, exploding through the hole and running downhill as he racked up 98-yards on 16 carries.

Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald also has an article on Arrington, who said after the game that there were plenty of people in his hometown watching the game yesterday.

And finally Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com breaks down yesterday’s first quarter of play, analyzing each possession and giving his take of what happened.  It’s a good read, so be sure to check it out.

That’s it for now, but check back later on as we’ll have more updates later this morning.

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Listening to some of the reactions Sunday afternoon, it’s kind of surprising that fans didn’t seem to realize that the Patriots defense was going to have their fair share of struggles early on this season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to most people considering that coming into this year they were going to be in a situation where “on the job experience” was going to be a key factor in their development.  After watching Sunday’s game it almost looks like what has been one of their main problems to this point is they’re simply dealing not only with a lack of experience individually, but also with eachother.

One of the biggest problems on the defensive side of the field almost appears to be a lack of chemistry to this point between the players.  You can clearly see that there are guys who aren’t where they’re supposed to be, especially in certain passing situations.  Taking another look at the game, there were a couple of things people really need to realize:

  1. They’re young.  Starting three rookies and two second year players means that nearly half of your defense has played very little in the National Football League.  “It is what is,” and unfortunately that’s going to mean mistakes are going to happen – and sometimes it’s going to be a big one.  We saw that this afternoon when Devin McCourty let his man get behind him and Patrick Chung couldn’t quite get there in time to stop him from reaching the endzone.  We also saw it at the linebacker position when several of those guys got beat a few times on different passing plays.  Odds are probably pretty good we’ll see other ”growing pains” as the season goes on as well.
     
  2. They haven’t played much together.  Take a look at the starting line-up from a year ago.  Seven of those players are either on IR or no longer with the football team.  Anyone who’s ever played football knows trust and faith in the guy next to them is something that doesn’t come overnight, and until they start playing better individually, it’s going to take some time before each of them can look the other in the eye and know that they’ll be where they’re supposed to be on each play.

Some have questioned what type of an effect Twitter and these other social media outlets have had with any of the younger players.  You have to wonder how happy Bill Belichick would have been if he noticed Gary Guyton’s tweet Saturday night around 11:30 about the Georgia game – which means he was obviously awake when he had an important divisional game the next day.  I doubt the likes of Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, or Mike Vrabel would have been on “Tweeting” that late the day before a game.  Instead Brandon Spikes got the starting nod over him, and while Guyton ultimately outplayed him today, he’s a guy that they really need to see some consistency from.

In the secondary McCourty continues to look good, save for the touchdown he and Chung gave up.  Up to this point McCourty has been one of the best open field tacklers they’ve had on this team in years, and he’s continued to improve week after week.  So on the left side things are going fairly well, it’s the other side that continues to have a few issues.

Arrington got the starting nod Sunday over Butler, and for now you have to give him the edge after today’s performance.  Butler got beat quite a few times this afternoon, giving his guy quite a cushion yet he wasn’t able to close the way he did against the Bengals in week one.  It’s bizarre, if you look at who he was in week one compared to last week and then this afternoon’s game, he doesn’t even look like the same player.  You almost have to wonder if he’s got issues with his confidence, which in this league guys will eat you alive if you don’t believe you’re better than they are.  The problem is they only have so much time to let him improve, and if he’s getting beat more than half the time, unfortunately that’s a formula that will typically prompt a change.

At the linebacker position it’s clearly just an issue of a bunch of young guys who haven’t completely caught on to the system yet.  For the most part they’ve been where they’ve needed to be.  The problem appears to be that in coverage they’ve been either too far off their guy, or they’ve been in position and simply missed a tackle.  Fans have to admit this is one of the fastest groups they’ve had in quite a while, and the only thing that’s really going to improve their play is more time on the field together, and more experience in live game action.

Up front we’ve seen improvement from Mike Wright and Ron Brace, with Vince Wilfork remaining as steady as he’s ever been.  They’re still struggling a bit against the run, but part of their job is to try and clog the lanes and let the linebackers make the play.  Sometimes that’s been happening, sometimes it hasn’t.  But on passing downs we’ve seen some penetration and we’ve seen them push guys back, which has started to allow other guys to have a chance to make a play.  They flushed Ryan Fitzpatrick out of the pocket on several occasions on Sunday, but he was able to get away and gain some yards using his legs.  Unfortunately on those plays no one accounted for him, and it was a missed opportunity for someone to potentially make a sack or at least stop him from gaining any positive yards.

Overall it’s clear the plan for now is they’re in a “bend-don’t-break” defense, where they’re just trying to keep as much as they can in front of them and not let guys get behind them and hopefully hold them to field goals.  For the most part that strategy worked on Sunday.  They gave up three field goals and made a critical 3rd down play that forced a 51 yard attempt that sailed wide left.  Another touchdown came off of a fumble recovery that gave them great field position, while another was a result of a kickoff return for a score.  Take away those two mistakes and sixteen points doesn’t seem so bad.

Unfortunately the mistakes still happened, and the competition they’ll be facing for the rest of the season won’t allow for that margin of error.  Hopefully we continue to see some improvements, because the rest of the year heading into next Monday night’s game against the Dolphins isn’t looking like it’s going to get any easier.

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Positives & Negatives From Patriots vs. Bills

Looking back at Sunday’s game against the Bills, obviously this week there was certainly far more to be happy about than there was last week, so here’s a look at what went well, and where they struggled against Buffalo. 

POSITIVES:

  • Jermaine Cunningham made a great play on the 4th play of the game, taking down CJ Spiller for a loss.  He was a guy who had a lot of success getting in the backfield at Florida, and plays like that one were exactly why New England drafted him.  He also put good pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick which helped force the high throw on the interception to Patrick Chung.
     
  • Danny Woodhead made a good impression in his new role with the team, scoring New England’s 2nd touchdown on a 22-yard run, which was a career long run and his first touchdown of his career.
     
  • Aaron Hernandez had a great 12-yard run on an end around on New England’s opening series.  He broke a couple of tackles before being taken down and finished the afternoon with a team high 6 catches for 65-yards.
     
  • Tom Brady was as good as it gets on Sunday, making a great play-action fake on New England’s first touchdown, hitting Randy Moss who slipped by the defense after they bit on the fake.  He finished the afternoon 21-of-27 for 252-yards and three touchdowns, with a quarterback rating of 142.6.  He also had a big moment after scrambling on a third down play early in the 3rd quarter, and then pumping his fist after he made the first down.  It was a key play as it kept the drive going and later lead to a touchdown throw to Rob Gronkowski.
     
  • Randy Moss didn’t start Sunday’s game and only had two receptions, but both of them went for touchdowns, with Moss making one of them in spectacular fashion.  He caught it traffic, even bumping into the official on the play but still held onto the ball.
     
  • Brandon Meriweather had a tough week after it was learned he hasn’t been starting because of the fact the coaches were unhappy with his need to improvise in practice instead of sticking to his assignment.  He made a great play early in the game when he came in from the backside and chased down Marshawn Lynch on one play, and also later had an interception which sealed the game for New England.  He finished Sunday’s game with five tackles.
     
  • Mike Wright did a great job Sunday in collapsing the pocket and he also did a decent job against the run.
     
  • Tully Banta-Cain as usual had a good game against Buffalo.  While he didn’t finish with a sack, he helped flush Fitzpatrick on the play where Jerod Mayo chased him down for his second career sack.
     
  • Patrick Chung was all over the field on Sunday and was aggressive on every play, finishing the afternoon with 7 tackles and also had an interception.
     
  • Jerod Mayo was solid all afternoon, making his second sack of his career and finishing with 9 tackles.  He’s off to another great start this season.
     
  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried 16 times for 98 yards including a touchdown, and may have given Belichick a reason to give him more playing time after today’s performance – especially if Taylor is still hobbled with his toe injury.

NEGATIVES:

  • Kyle Arrington inadvertently made a key block for Marshawn Lynch on Buffalo’s opening drive, getting blocked to the ground by Bills’ receiver Roscoe Parrish.  Patrick Chung had a good angle on him, but tripped over Arrington and Parrish ended up picking up 16 yards on the play.  He did do a great job of knocking away a touchdown pass attempt from Fitzpatrick early in the game to Lee Evans, but made a bad decision on the next play, when he moved over on Brandon Meriweather’s man, and got picked out of the play on Buffalo’s first touchdown.  He may have won the battle between he and Butler Sunday as he finished with three tackles and Butler finished with one – but he clearly has a lot of work to do to become the player the Patriots need him to be.
     
  • Fred Taylor had some good runs early in the game, but was later seen being tended to by trainers as he continues to battle with a toe injury.
     
  • Brandon Tate looked tentative during kickoff returns, and also fumbled away a 16-yard reception on a third and long play that would have been a first down on their third drive of the game.  Moss tried to recover it but it appeared they wrestled it away for Buffalo’s first takeaway of the season.
     
  • Rob Gronkowski scored a touchdown, but got called for an interference penalty at the start of the second quarter (the first of his career) which set up 1st and 20.  That third and long lead to the fumble by Tate which later lead to a touchdown by the Bills.
     
  • Zoltan Mesko had a forgettable afternoon punting the football.  The normally sure-footed Mesko only averaged 34.7 net yards on the day, which certainly was out of character for the rookie and his lowest output of the season.
     
  • The Patriots special teams allowing a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown right after Moss’ touchdown catch to get he Bills back within one at 24-23 w/12:58 left in the 3rd.  Not exactly something you want to see right after you score a touchdown.

GAME NOTES: 

It was nice of CBS’s feed to die right before kickoff. Fans missed the opening kickoff the feed appeared to be restored just before the first snap by Buffalo’s offense on their opening drive…Jermaine Cunningham got the starting nod for the Patriots at OLB over Tully Banta-Cain….Kyle Arrington also got the start over Darius Butler….It’s interesting to note that Brandon Tate got the nod over Randy Moss who didn’t start Sunday, but Moss caught the touchdown for New England on their opening drive.  After Sunday’s game Moss became the 2nd player in NFL history with 150 or more touchdown catches. Only he and Jerry Rice (197) have 150 or more…. Shawn Crable finally got his first snap of the season on defense, playing in the dime package on the third-down stop before Buffalo’s second field goal.  He made his first official tackle around the 8:19 mark while taking down Marshawn Lynch….Bill Belichick was seen having a long chat with play-caller Bill O’Brien during a timeout following one of Buffalo’s touchdowns…Belichick was also quite animated just before the end of the half, as he was seen screaming at the officials after the Bills field goal before halftime. Belichick said after the game he was frustrated by the use of timeouts by Buffalo – who tried to use an additional timeout that shouldn’t have been allowed…Danny Woodhead’s 22-yard touchdown run Sunday was the longest by a Patriot since Laurence Maroney scored from 45-yards out in the snow against the Titans last year in their 59-0 home rout… Wes Welker now has 364 receptions with the Patriots, moving him ahead of Irving Fryar (363) into 5th place in franchise history… Alge Crumpler saw a little time at fullback Sunday, and made a couple of good blocks in the running game….Patriots opened in the no-huddle to start the second half, which ended with a 35-yard scoring strike to Moss.  That touchdown by Brady was the 232 of his career, tying Steve Young for 19th all time.  He later broke that mark when he threw a touchdown to Gronkowski two possessions later.

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