It’s game day, and a critical one as the Patriots get set to take on a tough Pittsburgh Steelers team tonight at Heinz Field. After losing to the Browns last week, New England is looking to bounce back and prevent back-to-back losses against the Steelers - which will be important because looming next on the schedule will be the Indianapolis Colts, who will visit Foxboro next weekend.
Jim McBride of the Boston Globe has a scouting report on tonight’s match-ups, and also breaks down different areas of the game.
Mike Reiss was up early this morning and has his “Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL & Pats”, and points out that the Patriots don’t lose two in a row very often. According to Reiss since 2003, the Patriots are 24-2 in games following a regular-season loss. They lost two in a row last season, against New Orleans and Miami.
Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald reports that despite practicing this week, Fred Taylor once again will not play this week thanks to his lingering toe injury. Taylor hasn’t played since week 3 against Buffalo. The veteran runningback said on Friday he hadn’t suffered any setbacks and wanted to be out there.
“Haven’t been any setbacks, been a productive week,” Taylor said Friday. “Do I think I could play? You’re talking about the Steelers, man. Pittsburgh. In a good sense. You got to want to play against that team. It’s not my call.”
Rapoport also reports that joining Taylor will be guard Stephen Neal, nose tackle Myron Pryor, and potentially safety Patrick Chung – who is expected to be a game time decision.
Rapoport also looks at the “Top Five Questions Facing the Patriots” for tonight’s game, and wonders if BenJarvus Green-Ellis can have some success against a tough Steelers run defense that only allows an average of just 2.6 yards per carry.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that so far this season the Steelers have the best run defense – ever. Not great news for a Patriots team that has struggled so far to run the ball consistently.
Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette – who also joined us this week to answer some questions – takes a look at the match-up between the Steelers Troy Polamalu and Patriots rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Greg Bedard of the Globe has his five questions on Pittsburgh, and he checks in with Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to get some answers.
The Buffalo News has an interesting article this morning looking at the Patriots defense, who they feel “isn’t playing like a champion”. After being “exposed” last week against Cleveland, they feel their performance over the next couple of weeks could be telling.
Monique Walker of the Boston Globe takes a look at how the changes in the kicking game may affect tonight’s game, with Shayne Graham getting his first start tonight with his new team. Graham joined the Patriots earlier this week after Stephen Gostkowski went down for the season. It’ll be a tough test for Graham in his first game. The winds swirl quite a bit at Heinz Field – so it’s expected to be a difficult environment for kickers tonight.
Shalise Manza Young takes a look at the evolution of the tight end position, and notes that this current group has varied skills that have been a solid improvement this year.
Karen Guregian of the Herald writes that Brady’s mechanics were off, and his personal coach said that it was an off day for New England’s signal caller.
“Mangini, having gone up against the offense every day (as defensive coordinator), has a pretty good feel for the things they do, so that was part of the problem, but Tom didn’t play real well,” Martinez said when reached by phone Thursday. “Mechanically, he wasn’t doing some of the things we had been working on (during the offseason). So he didn’t do his part. He was off.
“I’ve seen him so long, I know when he’s finely tuned. And I can tell you during that game, he needed an oil change.”
And finally Dan Shaughnessy has a column this morning on tonight’s game, and writes that tradition is a big part of who Pittsburgh is, and as usual they’re a good team again.
That’s it for now. Enjoy your Sunday and we’ll have more later this afternoon.