Archive for December, 2012

Patriots Set Records During Sunday’s Win

Aaron Hernandez caught a record breaking pass on the first play from scrimmage Sunday. (FILE:USPresswire)

It’s been quite a season for the Patriots, and they reached a couple of milestones yet again on Sunday.

It started on the first play from scrimmage, when Tom Brady connected with Aaron Hernandez for a 14-yard completion to kick things off.  That play gave them their 417th first down of the season, breaking the previous NFL single-season mark of 416.

Overall they finished with 28 on the afternoon, bringing their final total for the season to 444 and setting the new benchmark.

Quarterback Tom Brady also became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass in all 16 regular season games for 3 straight seasons.  It came in the 1st quarter on a 9-yard scoring throw to Wes Welker to put the Patriots up 7-0. For Welker it also gave him his 110th consecutive game with a reception.

That play also gave Brady his 48th straight regular season game with a touchdown pass, moving him ahead of Johnny Unitas for 2nd longest all time and puts him 6 behind Drew Brees’ record of 54.

He finished the 2012 regular season with 4,827 passing yards, his second highest total of his career behind last year’s total of 5,235.

OTHER NOTES: Stevan Ridley also reached the 1,200 rushing yard mark on his second carry of the game, making him the 5th Patriot ever to do so. He later reached 1,235 rushing yards in one season, good for 4th best in franchise history. His final total for 2012 is 1,263…Brady also moved ahead of Drew Bledsoe for 9th in NFL history after reaching 44,614 career yards passing at about the two minute mark in the first quarter…Brady also reached 3,788 career completions with just over 4-minutes left in the first half, moving him ahead of Vinny Testeverde for 8th in NFL history.

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Patriots Lose LB Rob Ninkovich to Injury

New England suffered a potential setback on Sunday, with linebacker Rob Ninkovich suffering an injury during the Patriots 28-0 win over the Dolphins.

Ninkovich went down with just over 6-minutes to go in the 2nd quarter and had to be helped off the field, and seemed to really be struggling on his way down the stairs into the locker room.

The team later called it a “hip” injury and that his return was “questionable”.  He never came back out onto the field and his status is now in doubt heading into the postseason.

Bill Belichick offered the standard, “I don’t know” when asked about Ninkovich’s status after the game, but talked about the versatility he gives them on the field.

“Well, he’s mainly played defensive end this year,” said Belichick.   “But he’s also, of course, played in the kicking game and at times he plays some linebacker but he’s done that before in the past for us. It’s pretty common, there’s a lot of guys in the league who play linebacker that then go to rush on third down. We’re in a four-man front so he’s been rushing most of the time.

“He’s a tough kid, he’s very competitive and he’s got good versatility and his ability to help us in the kicking game as well as defensively over the years including this year, that’s pretty valuable too. He does a good job.”

For now his potential absence leaves them with some work ahead as they look for yet another player to step up and help them get through what has been a tough season as far as injuries are concerned.

Overall Ninkovich finished the 2012 season with eight sacks, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.  He also assisted on one tackle Sunday before he suffered his injury.

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WBZ Interview With Derrick Martin – Transcript

Steve Burton interviewed Derrick Martin during the 5th Quarter following Sunday’s win over the Dolphins, and here’s a transcript of the interview:

First of all, seven sacks on the day and you got one, so congratulations on that.  How sweet was this victory?

“It was great. Coach wanted us to get out there and start fast and we were able to do that. We started fast on offense, defense and special teams and then we finished strong.”

This defense didn’t start out so great earlier in the year, but you weren’t here. Derrick Martin didn’t even get here until, what, week eight?

“Week eight.”

And they had to call you where?

“I was at the house, man [Laughs].”

Let me explain Derrick Martin’s situation [looks at the camera]. He’s been in the NFL for seven years and each year he’s gone to the playoffs, how lucky is that?

“I’ve been real lucky. I’ve been blessed with being on great teams, good quarterbacks, good coaches, gets you to the playoffs.”

Right timing?

“Right timing [nods].”

But you were at home when the Patriots called?

“Yeah, definitely. Nick [Caserio] gave me a call and called me out.  I was out here for Training Camp and I guess they liked what I did a little bit, they were able to bring me back.”

And you were with the Giants last year, we won’t go there [smiles].  But you were there and all of a sudden you guys win it all and…

“Yeah man, I’ve been getting used to it. I like winning, I was in Green Bay the year before that, the Giants last year, the Patriots this year. Good coach, good quarterback, the sky’s the limit.”

How far do you think this football team can go and before you even answer that question, did you know that you were up for a first-round bye before this game even started?

“We were aware, but we focused on the next game, the next team ahead. We can go as far as we can and as far as the team takes us. We’re going to show up next week for whoever plays us, going to try to beat them first. That’s how you’ve got to do it, take it one step at a time.”

Do you think this defense is peaking right at the right time?

“Definitely man. We got a good defense. Everybody’s covering good, the rushers are rushing well….”

Yeah, I mentioned seven sacks that means that’s good coverage in the backfield?

“Definitely good coverage. The young guys are stepping up, Justin Francis had three.”

Undrafted rookie mind you, Justin Francis.

“Trevor Scott had one, so the young guys are stepping up and he was able to call my number couple of times and was able to sneak me in there and get me one.”

What did Belichick say to this team after the game? Because he comes to the podium, you don’t get a chance to see has postgame pressers, and he just down plays everything. But in that locker room, what’s he telling you guys?

“Pretty much the same thing he told you guys, ‘You guys did a good job, were going to come out here Monday and we’re going to talk about what happened, be ready for next week’.”

So even though it is a bye, you still have to come back to work tomorrow, you don’t even get tomorrow off?

“We’ll be here. We’ve got to see what we did wrong on film. It was a good game, but there were some mistakes, some down plays, and we’ve just got to shore up on those things and make sure we’re ready for whoever comes out here.”

What was it like to get Gronk back in the lineup?

“Oh man, it’s great. He’s a huge target and Tom [Brady] loves him. Whenever he can throw the ball anywhere over there and he can catch the ball, that’s awesome.”

And it was good to see him find the end zone again.


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Devin McCourty Post Game Press Conference Transcript

On how big of an advantage it is to have a bye and be playing at home for the next game:

“That’s big. Coming in knowing that we’re going to be playing at home, I think we take pride in playing at home, we love to play in front of our fans. The biggest thing is we’ll get another week to get some guys healthy and get them ready to go, and then give us a chance to really fix some things we need to fix and get ready to go for whoever we play.”

On what he feels they need to fix:

“We’ll see that. Coach will come in here tomorrow and he never falls short of having a bunch of things that we need to fix. He’ll go over the film and I think since I’ve been here, there’s probably no coach that gets you better prepared to go into the playoffs. I think for us as a team we just need to be ready to come in here tomorrow, focus on whatever coach Belichick has for us and get those things done. Because if we get them done, we’ll be in good shape.”

On what the bye week does for the mentally:

“I think it gives you a chance to really focus on whatever you need to focus on, especially a bye week like this where we won’t know who we’re playing. It will give us a chance to really focus on ourselves and try to improve in that week. I think we have to do a good job this week of just trying to improve and get better. This time of the year it’s all about going out and playing your best in each one of those games because there’s no game after that if you don’t play well.”

On how far this team has come since the beginning of the year:

“I think we’ve improved each week. I think that’s something that we talked about and we said we needed to do and I think we’ve done a good job of that. But I think the most important thing is this time right now. How much better can we get going into these last games. Going in, we don’t know if there will be at a tomorrow so we have to come out and play our best. We can’t afford to come out and have one bad game.  So I think this group has shown a lot of character and a lot of determination to go out there and play. Even games that we fell short this year, we fought all the way to the end. So we’re going to have to just use that ability and that character going in to these games.”

On how nice it is to get the shutout and use this going into the playoffs:

“I think the most important thing is we came out, we played well. We talked about all week as a defense to come out, play well our last game of the season and to come out and give yourself confidence coming out and playing well and I thought we did a good job of that. We’ll fix a couple plays we had, but we came out overall and played pretty good on defense.”

On after getting seven sacks if there’s another level this defense can get to:

“Yeah, I think we have to. Going into the playoffs we won’t be the only team going to the next level. I think everyone knows once you go into the playoffs, team step it up a notch. We’re going to have to do our part and try to step it up and match teams going into these playoffs. If we keep improving and getting better, we’ll be able to get there.”

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Tom Brady Post Game Press Conference Transcript

On the fact they shut out the Dolphins and ended up with a first-round bye:

“Yeah, it was kind of a late Christmas present so, we accept.”

On what it was like having Gronkowski back:

“Yeah, he made a couple of big catches. It’s nice to get him back in the flow of things. We used everybody so it was exciting to have everybody out there at once for the first time all season. So we’ll use the bye, hopefully come back strong in a couple weeks.”

On the fact he was a little cranky last week during his press conference and if it’s a little different this week and if he’s happy with the execution in the elements:

“Yeah, it was tough out there, it was cold and pretty windy. We handled it better than the Dolphins most importantly.”

On when he found out that the Colts had beaten the Texans:

“When we came in after pregame warm-ups,”

On if there was much said about it:

“Not really. Coach Belichick said, ‘Look, the only people that can improve our position is us. So regardless of what anyone else does, we have to win,’ and that’s what we did.”

On if his performance makes him feel like their close to where they want to be heading into the playoffs:

“Well, we’ve won 10 of 11 so it’s pretty good. We were 2-3 at one point, which [we] had some tough games early in the year and winning 10 of 11 and the only loss was against a pretty good football team where we turned it over four times. So if we don’t turn it over four times I like our chances.

On how much she’s learned about this team the season and how much more he thinks he still needs to find out:

“We’re just going to keep battling. I think that’s why you play them all. You don’t make, at the halfway point… you know, at Thanksgiving, you kind of see where the teams are positioned but you got to play all sixteen. You put them all together you see where you stand and we compete against everybody so we’ll take our time to get some guys healed up and then hopefully get ready to go when we find out whoever we play.”

On some of the things there able to do when they have everyone in the offense on the field compared to when they had guys out:

“Well, just to use their different skill sets. Those guys, Gronk got a big Touchdown, Aaron [Hernandez] caught some pretty critical first down plays. Those are very flexible guys.  [Michael Hoomanawanui] and Daniel [Fells] played a big role so all four tight ends played, the receivers all played, it was good to see.”

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Bill Belichick Post Game Press Conference Transcript


“I thought it was a real good performance by our team today. Those guys really did a good job. We had a good week of practice, they were obviously ready to go today. The players played well, got good contributions from all three phases of the game and had a lot of guys step up and make plays. I don’t want a single anybody out, there were so many guys that contributed. It was a good solid effort. I’m proud of our team. So the results are what they are and we’ll see how it goes here going forward. But hopefully this’ll be a good game that we can step off from and keep working to improve and get better in our next outing.”

On if he was aware of the Houston Colts outcome before the game:

“Yeah, we got the score before the game but we can’t really worry about what everybody else is doing. We’ve got to do what we can do, and whatever else happens, happens.”

On what went into the decision to play Rob Gronkowski today:

“He was ready to play.”

On if he would still have played had Houston not lost during the early game:

“He was ready to play.”

On the fact that having just wrapped up the division title and a first-round bye he doesn’t look overjoyed:

“We wrapped up the division a month ago.  Unless I missed it…”

On the fact it’s pretty good news that they don’t have to go on the road initially and have a bye:

“Whatever it is, it is. Whatever it is, it is. When we have to play, we’ll play.”

On how big of an advantage it is in his estimation:

“I don’t know. I don’t know.”

On the play of the defensive front seven:

“They did a good job. It’s team defense and guys were covered, the quarterback had to hold the ball, that helped our pass rush, guys rushed well, guys covered well, but you know, when the receivers are open, it doesn’t matter what your pass rush is. If you make the quarterback hold the ball that helps the pass rush. It was good team defense. We did a good job in the running game. There were some long yardage situations and of course we got ahead in the game, that obviously made them have to throw more so that work to our advantage too. But it was good team defense today. Again, I couldn’t single anybody out, but the guys on the backend played well, the guys up front played well. There was a big turnover to start the game, put us in good field position early and of course Dont’a [Hightower] jumped on that fumble there down on the goal line, which… You know we had several fumbles against them in the last game and only recovered one. So it was good to be able to get that one.”

On the fact Justin Francis played well:

“Well, again I think some of that is overrated. There were several times when one guy came in and flushed the quarterback out and somebody else got him. So if we get them as a team, we get them. But they all did a good job, Justin, Chandler [Jones], Vince [Wilfork], Brandon [Deaderick], Kyle [Love], Trevor [Scott], Rob [Ninkovich], they all do a good job.”

On his thoughts on the fact Rob Ninkovich left the game in the capacity he did:

“We’ll see what it is. I don’t know, we’ll see what it is.”

On his thoughts on his team’s toughness:

“Yeah, it was certainly good today. It wasn’t too good a couple weeks ago where we handed the ball away the whole game, or the first half of it anyway. But no, it was good today. The conditions weren’t easy, but the players handled them well, they handled the ball well for the most part. I think we dropped some balls, but overall we took care of it, didn’t turn it over and that was good. We tackled okay, so I think our overall execution on today’s game on a lot of areas given the elements and all that, was good. Hopefully we can do that on a consistent basis.”

On Ninkovich’s versatility and the value that he has to the team:

“Well, he’s mainly played defensive end this year, but he’s also, of course, played in the kicking game and at times he plays some linebacker but he’s done that before in the past for us. It’s pretty common, there’s a lot of guys in the league who play linebacker that then go to rush on third down. We’re in a four-man front so he’s been rushing most of the time. He’s a tough kid, he’s very competitive and he’s got good versatility and his ability to help us in the kicking game as well as defensively over the years including this year, that’s pretty valuable too. He does a good job.”

On if he feels good about where his defense is now at the end of the season:

“I don’t know. We played good today, we’ll see what happens the next time we play. I don’t know. Every week is its own challenge so we’ll see how we do against somebody else and what that matchup is. Today they did a good job. I mean anytime you can hold a team to no points in this league, you have to be doing something right.”

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Rating: 0 (from 0 votes) is proud to welcome former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan back for the 12th straight season. Grogan played in 149 games with the Patriots from 1975-1990, and was named to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1995. Steve will join us each week to provide his insight on the progress of the Patriots during the 2012 football season. He already joined the Buzz on Monday, now we do an additional expanded feature with another interview from local writer R.R. Marshall which gives you even more from the former New England signal caller.

R.R. Marshall: Steve the Jacksonville Jaguars hardly looked a 2-12 team on Sunday, rolling up big play after big play against a porous Patriots defense and harassing Tom Brady into a subpar performance.  Should Patriots Nation be happy to escape with a 7-point win, or should they be concerned after 2 straight lackluster efforts from their team?

Steve Grogan: Well, I think it’s both.  I think they should be happy that they got out of there with a win, but I think they need to be concerned about the way their defense played – at least early.  If you look at the scoreboard they only gave up 16 points, that’s still pretty good but they were giving up a lot of big plays and against a good football team that’s going to be a problem.  So I know they’ve got people banged up on defense and I know they’re trying to get healthy and they’ve already clinched a playoff spot, but you’d like to see them play with a little more confidence than they played with, at least early in the game, on Sunday.

RRM: I really expected the Patriots to come out and take their anger out on the Jags over their loss to the 49ers.  But you warned us last week that this had “trap game” written all over it.  What did you see that many of us didn’t?

SG:  The defense, particularly on the first drive, looked like they were just rolling off the bus and putting their uniforms on and were going to walk out on the field. Jacksonville just took the ball down the field one big play after another and scored, that was a little concerning.  Offensively they weren’t able to run the ball at all in the first half. Tom Brady throws two interceptions, which is highly unusual for him.  I just don’t think that they felt like they needed to play their best football to win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  As we all know, and we’ve talked about for years now, when people play the Patriots, that’s their Super Bowl and it doesn’t matter how bad they are, they’re going to come out and play you hard.  That’s what Jacksonville did Sunday and they almost stole one from the Patriots.

RRM:  I ask this question with all due respect, but your late 70’s teams were notorious for taking weaker teams lightly and eventually losing games that cost them dearly by season’s end.  Does the head coach bare most of the responsibility when that happens, and is even Bill Belichick guilty of letting this happen to his club at times?

SG:  I don’t think this has anything to do with the coaching or the coaching staff.  Guys mentally, coaches can tell them all week how important it is for them to stay up and how important the game is, and how they need to keep their heads in it and come out from the start and play hard.  But the players have to do that and it’s sometimes hard for the players to convince themselves that this game is really going to be tougher than everybody’s telling them it’s going to be.

RRM: Well, if there was a silver lining in this game it was the reemergence of the Patriots pass rush lead by Chandler Jones, who had some really big QB pressures of Chad Henne late in the game.  Did you feel this way as well?

SG: Yeah, Jones came up with some really big plays late in the game.  I don’t know where he was early in the game, I’m not even sure he was playing that much because he wasn’t making any plays if he was.  But at the end when they needed somebody to step up and really put the clamps down on the Jaguars passing game, he was the guy that did it and I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.

RRM: I was confused to see Devin McCourty starting at cornerback with Aqib Talib dressed on the bench but apparently not playing.  I guess my question is how can Bill continue to play McCourty at cornerback and continue to get toasted as he did at the start of this game?

SG:  I don’t think he wants to keep him at cornerback.  But with all the guys they’ve got hurt, [Alfonzo] Dennard was out, Talib was hurt – did play some but didn’t play well.  I think it was a no choice situation, he had to stick him out there at cornerback.  But hopefully they’ll get these corners back healthy before the playoffs start and they can get McCourty back at safety where he belongs.

“He may have been but I don’t think that was the cause for the interceptions and I don’t think it was the cause for some bad throws.” – Steve Grogan on Tom Brady potentially being injured. (FILE:USPresswire)

RRM: Tom Brady sat out a day of practice last week due to a sore arm and we saw him take a shot on his throwing hand in the second half of this game.  Did you see anything to indicate he was playing hurt?

SG: No, I don’t think so.  He may have been but I don’t think that was the cause for the interceptions and I don’t think it was the cause for some bad throws.  He’s had games like this throughout this year that have kind of been unusual from what we’re used to seeing of him, but he certainly didn’t look like he was injured.

RRM: For one of the few times this year, the Patriots offensive line broke down and subjected Brady to some hellacious shots.  Are you at all concerned about his health with only one game left to play in this season?

SG: Yeah, he took some big hits Sunday.  The offensive line really struggled, really as badly as I’ve seen them struggle all year.  They weren’t pass protecting well, they didn’t run the ball well.  They had all their starters back in there for I think I heard them say for three weeks in a row they finally played together.  But they didn’t play well Sunday and I’m sure that will be addressed during this week.  And depending on how things shake out going into this week’s game, I’m not sure how much of Tom Brady you’ll see.  If he is banged up a little bit they may decide to sit him.

RRM: We’ll get back to that in a second, but first I want to ask you: Wes Welker had another one of his quiet games [laughs], 10 catches for almost a hundred yards including the game winning touchdown.  But don’t you get a little nervous watching him take all those hits returning punts?

SG: Yeah, it seems to me like they might have somebody else that could return punts for them.  He gets hammered so much in the passing game and made some big plays Sunday.  He broke Jerry Rice’s record with 18 games with 10+ catches, which is quite an accomplishment because Rice was the best ever.  But Welker takes some pretty good shots on those punt returns and if you’re going to put him back there, and I know he’s good at it, you maybe just want him to fair catch it, particularly in games like this late in the season when you’re getting ready for the playoffs.

RRM: Everybody talks about Welker’s elusiveness but the one thing I don’t hear people talk much about is his ability to absorb these hits without any physical damage.  I can’t remember him, other than the knee injury in 2009, I can’t remember him missing a game with an injury?

SG: No, he just keeps getting up and it’s amazing for a guy his size the way he gets pounded.  He is elusive, he runs well with the ball after the catch.  He knows when to get down but he’s still getting pounded on his body and he’s got to be sore.  On Monday mornings he’s probably one of the first ones in the hot tub I would guess.

RRM: Speaking of records, Brady tied the great Johnny Unitas with his 47th consecutive game with at least one touchdown pass.  He’s now 7 behind Drew Brees, who at 54 games had his streak snapped earlier last month.  While neither Brady or Belichick will probably admit this, but don’t you think Belichick will do anything he can to see him get that record?

SG: I would think Bill’s a guy that knows about records, he doesn’t want to admit it and won’t admit it to the public, but he knows about those kinds of things and I would think he would try to get Tom that kind of record – it would be something pretty special for him.

RRM: What do you think for Brady personally?

SG: Well, people have debated who the best quarterback ever to play the game is and he’s always in the conversation, so for him to set a record like that would ccertainly raise his status in the ‘all time great’ category.

RRM: Houston’s upset loss to the Vikings keeps the much coveted number two seed in play going into this week, giving the Patriots something to play for.  But before we get into that, with the Texans having to go on the road to play the Colts, and with both teams already having clinched playoff spots and the Colts apparently locked in at that #5 seed, do you think the draw of a number two seed and a first round bye will be enough motivation for the Texans to win on the road?

SG: I think that’s going to be an interesting game this week.  I know that the Colts coach is coming back after battling cancer all year.  They’re a young team and I think they would want to continue to play well and to keep winning just to get the feel for what the whole thing’s about so that in the future they’ll have been in that position before.  So I think they’ll come out and play with a lot of emotion and probably play their starters and try to win the game and if Houston’s not careful, that Colts team can put a hurting on them.  So it would be nice for the Patriots of course to have the Texans lose, and a late Christmas present to not have to play the first week and it certainly would be advantageous for the Patriots if that does happen.

RRM: There’s been a lot of discussion about who should win the NFL MVP award this year and I think in the NFL more than any of the other four major sports where the MVP is usually a pseudonym of the “Most Outstanding Player”.  Brady and Peyton Manning are the co-favorites, but you also have running back Adrian Peterson of the Vikings who has a shot.  It would be a stretch, but I think he needs almost 200 yards in his last game to break the all-time seasonal rushing record set by Eric Dickerson back in 2004.  How do you see this three-way race developing?

SG:  Well I think they’re all three right there and it’s going to be a very tough decision for the voters. Tom Brady’s had a great year. Peyton Manning of course coming off the injury, nobody expected him to play as well as he’s played this season.  And Peterson coming off of a devastating knee injury has done something you would never have expected him to do.  So if I had to vote right now it would be a very difficult decision

RRM: We’ll give you another week to think about it.  How’s that?

SG: Thank you [Laughs].

RRM: Well the Patriots end their regular season at home this week against a Miami Dolphins team that has a chance to finish at .500.  One thing you can say about these Dolphins is they don’t have a lot of talent, but they do play for a full 60-minutes and give teams all that they can handle.  I expected a walkover last week and now I’m not expecting one this week.  What do you think?

SG: I think it’s a game like you saw this week.  These Patriots players have to understand how important this is and could be to the playoff picture.  They better be more prepared to play mentally than they were Sunday.  Fortunately they’re at home and I think that will be an advantage, Miami having to come up and play in the cold weather.  But if the Patriots aren’t ready to take care of business, Miami’s got a decent football team and they could jump up and bite them.

RRM: We always used to talk about that back when your teams were playing the Dolphins.  Is the cold weather factor for the Dolphins coming north that big of a deal?  I mean they beat Buffalo in Buffalo Sunday, although it wasn’t abnormally cold, but is it still as big of a factor as it used to be?

SG: It’s probably not as big of a factor as it used to be.  It kind of depends on what the weather is like.  I mean if it’s 35 or 40 degrees it’s not going to bother them that much.  If it’s 20 degrees and snowing and it’s the last game of the year and they’re not going to the playoffs, most of the guys will have their cars packed and running when they get home so they can get the heck out of there – season’s over with.  It’s going to depend on which Dolphins team shows up, the one that’s been playing pretty well here lately or the one that’s just ready to get the season over with.

RRM: OK, what are Grogan’s Grades for the 23-16 narrow victory over the surprising Jags?

SG: This one was a tough one to grade.  A lot of them have been this year just because it’s a tale of two halves.  I thought the defense played poorly in the first half but played much better in the second half.  The offense didn’t do very well in the first half but played better in the second half.  They won the game, they did what they had to do but it wasn’t very pretty so I’m going to go with a B- across the board.

RRM: I want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, I’m sure we can do that from all the followers of and we’ll be back next week.

SG: I appreciate it.  Same to you, and all the fans that follow us every week.  Hopefully next week we’ll be talking about a playoff bye and a number one seed.  That would be fun.

Grogan’s Grade Week 15 

Offense: B-
Defense: B-

Overall: B-

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12 Thoughts Following the Patriots Win Over the Jaguars

Coming off of last Sunday night’s frustrating loss to the San Francisco 49ers, most people thought the Patriots were poised to come out and have a big day against a lowly Jaguars team that was 2-12 before they took the field against them.

Instead the Jaguars picked up where the 49ers left off and were extremely physical, making life tough on the Patriots in the first half and even brought this one right down to the wire before New England’s defense managed to do just enough to keep them out of the endzone on their final drive for the victory.

After the game you would never have guessed they won it by what you saw from Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork, who were both clearly upset at the way their team played in this one.   There’s no question that the fact the Jaguars are so bad was the reason New England was able to play poorly yet still escape with a win.  Obviously it’s been a long season but they still need to try and put together some momentum heading into the postseason, especially if they hope to go deep into the playoffs.

Miami has been playing better in recent weeks and in all likelihood next weekend’s game is going to be a little tougher than their first meeting a few weeks ago.  Without getting into too much detail, let’s get on with it:

1) Obviously next week’s game just got a little more interesting – This year in the NFL has been nothing short of crazy in terms of the way things have gone on a week-to-week basis.  The Patriots went from seemingly out of contention of a first round bye to potentially playing for a number one seed next weekend against Miami.  After Houston’s loss to Minnesota – among a couple of other scenarios –  New England is now in a situation where they can earn a No. 2 seed if Houston loses to the Colts next weekend, and even the No. 1 seed should the Broncos also fall to the Chiefs.  The latter is certainly more unlikely unless the Chiefs players want to send Romeo Crennel off in style, but considering how bleak things seemed after their loss to the 49ers, the fact the Patriots are even in this situation is amazing.  But then again, it doesn’t mean anything if they don’t take care of business against the Dolphins.

2) You have to love Vince Wilfork – Wilfork had one of those moments on Sunday that just makes you really appreciate what a great player, and more importantly, what a great teammate he is as well.  With the Jaguars threatening to tie things up Chandler Jones hit Chad Henne on a fourth and goal play from the Patriots 10-yard line.  Patrick Chung managed to pick off the pass and killed the drive, but it was what happened during the return that set off Wilfork.  Jaguars offensive lineman Steve Vallos hit Trevor Scott from behind toward the end of the play, knocking him face-first into the ground.  Unfortunately for Vallos, he did it right in front of Wilfork who took exception to it and retaliated – in a big way – against him and it lead to a penalty for unnecessary roughness.  Wilfork didn’t care, and he said as much after the game.  “That was protecting my teammate, plain and simple,” Wilfork said during his press conference. “You’re not going to sit right in front of me and take a cheap shot at my guy with me standing behind you, that won’t fly. Plain and simple.”  It was his 6th penalty of the year, but one that will definitely be remembered by fans who love the type of player – and person – he really is.

Tom Brady’s gotten knocked around quite a bit in recent weeks. (FILE:USPresswire)

3) Brady’s gotten hammered these last two weeks – After sitting out practice this week with a sore shoulder, it was tough watching the Jaguars once again and take shots at him.  Obviously teams have seen the film and they know that by knocking him around that’s the best chance they have to force him to make a bad throw.  It’s certainly been even more evident in recent weeks and it’s definitely a little alarming considering how important he obviously is to this football team.  Head coach Bill Belichick was asked about it after the game and deflected it by saying they “always try to protect the quarterback” and “that’s part of football.  Guys get hit.”  Very true, but it’s been happening a little more than normal recently, some of which have been pretty big.  That definitely can’t continue.

4) Watching Aqib Talib on Sunday was brutal – After not being able to get through warm ups, cornerback Aqib Talib started Sunday’s game on the sideline as he continues battling through a hip injury.  Instead after watching his team struggle in pass coverage during the early part of the contest Talib ended up on the field anyway, and was seen clutching his hip while chasing down Jacksonville’s receivers.  It’s really too bad the offense wasn’t able to have a big day against them and allow Talib to sit this one out, but give him a lot of credit.  He fought through the pain and helped them earn a win and it’s tough not to have even more respect for him after Sunday’s effort.

5) The Jaguars apparently didn’t feel they had a shot to rush between the guards or tackles against the Patriots - Looking at the rushing chart the Jaguars apparently planned to either run outside or pound the middle against New England, and that’s about it.  It’s probably the first time all season I’ve ever seen a chart so lopsided as most teams tend to alternate a lot of the rushes between the guards and tackle, while also mixing in runs straight up the middle.  Jacksonville didn’t do that.  Here’s how it broke down: Left End 1 carry, 24 yards, Left Tackle 0 Carries, Left Guard 0 carries, Middle 12 carries, 40 yards (3.3 avg), Right Guard 1 carry, 16 yards, Right Tackle 0 carries, Right End 7 carries, 23 yards (3.3 avg).  It worked out as the Patriots held the Jaguars to 16 carries of 5 yards or less, including 4 for either no gain or a loss.

6) The return of Rob Gronkowski is much needed – I’ve mentioned this previously but Gronk’s absence has hurt them both in the passing game and in protection, and it’s pretty clear they really need him back in the lineup.  With Edelman also out teams are absolutely pounding Wes Welker and it’s cut down on the opportunities for them to create match-up issues to open up their passing game.  To make matters worse, for those times where Brady needs a little extra help keeping pass rushers away Gronk’s physical style of play also takes away that aspect of their game as well.  There’s a reason why they’ve invested so much in him and that’s because of the many aspects of his game that he brings.  With the Miami game seemingly holding a little more importance there’s probably a good chance we’ll see him finally get some snaps next Sunday.

7) Another milestone for Wes Welker – It’s tough watching Welker knowing that the Patriots will have to spend the offseason figuring out exactly how to replace him.  Obviously the plan for now is to just enjoy what he brings to this football team for this year, but watching him battle three defenders to make a play makes you appreciate what he managed to accomplish Sunday.  He reached another milestone thanks to his 10 catch performance, giving him his 18th career game with 10 or more receptions, putting him ahead of Jerry Rice for most all time.  He’s definitely a special player, and with teams coming after him each week he somehow manages to still play well.  It’s just amazing to watch.

8) Deion Branch just doesn’t have it anymore – After last season I thought for sure that was Branch’s last hurrah, especially after he was let go before this season.  Instead injuries have thrust him back onto the field, but he just doesn’t have the speed or quickness to get any type of separation.  It’s painful to watch because I’d rather remember him for the player he was instead of the player he currently is.  One would have to believe this really will be his last year, and let’s hope the receiving core doesn’t deal with any further injuries as they begin their playoff run.

9) Chandler Jones had a good afternoon – Jones is still getting his feet wet after getting back into the line-up, but Sunday was definitely one of his better games since he’s returned from his injury.  That’s good news for Patriots fans who have high hopes for the rookie to come up big during the postseason.  It was a little easy to forget about him when they were having success rushing the quarterback while he was out, but there’s no denying they’re definitely better off now that he’s back.  The fact he appears to be getting stronger each week should have any fan excited about what to expect in the coming weeks.

10) Not a great day for Brandon Bolden – After coming back from his suspension for using a banned substance Bolden saw some action Sunday against Jacksonville, but carried 5 times for just 3 yards, including a loss of a yard on a 2nd and 1 play at the Jacksonville 1 yard line.  Obviously it will take him a little time before he gets comfortable again, but it certainly wasn’t the performance he was probably hoping for, especially for a guy who was averaging 5 yards a carry.  Hopefully he settles in and is able to get back to where he was before he was suspended.

11) Ridley bounced back well Sunday- After a rough outing against the 49ers, Ridley had a good afternoon against the Jacksonville, carrying 18 times for 84 yards.  He didn’t show much hesitation and hit the hole hard against the Jaguars, which was good to see considering all the criticism he received this week.  Although having talked to a large amount of people who still think he fumbled twice last weekend, I’ll reiterate that he fumbled just once on what was in essence a textbook tackle where the defender put their helmet right on the ball in wet weather.  Ridley likely learned his lesson, and if you’ve seen any interviews or witnessed his words off the field, he’s an intelligent guy who has the desire to work hard and be a great running back.  After seeing what he’s done this season it’s hard not to be excited about what the future holds, and people need to stop being so critical about a guy who clearly has a tremendous career ahead.

12) Miami’s comments after the last game raise the stakes - Speaking of Ridley, it’s going to be interesting to see how he does Sunday against Miami.  Ridley carried a season high 10 times in the fourth quarter against them a few weeks ago, and there were guys on Miami’s defense who felt disrespected about the fact Ridley kept running their way over that span.  He was a key factor in running out the clock in that one and you can bet the Patriots will run him their way again this time around as well if they can’t stop him – regardless of how “disrespected” the Dolphins feel.  However, Miami was tough against Ridley early on in that game and it wasn’t an easy win for New England, with the final score ending in a mirror image of the Jacksonville game.  Fortunately with the stakes now raised hopefully we’ll see the Patriots start off a little better against them this time around and end the year with something to build on heading into the playoffs.

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PHOTOS: Patriots at Jaguars

Danny Woodhead prior to the start of Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tom Brady Sunday down in Jacksonville against the Jaguars.

Wes Welker fought for some hard earned yards and made 10 receptions, giving him 18 10+ reception games for his career – which moved him ahead of Jerry Rice all time.

Patriots running back Stevan Ridley during game action against the Jaguars.

Danny Woodhead got the Patriots started with a touchdown in the second quarter on Sunday.

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Patriots Showdown vs Miami Next Sunday Flexed to 4:25pm

Leave it to the NFL to try and make the final weekend a little more interesting.

As New England prepares for their final regular season game next weekend at home against the Dolphins, the league has moved their start time to 4:25, setting it up for more fans to keep an eye on other games that could affect the playoff seeding.

One key game for fans to watch is the match-up between Indianapolis and Houston, which has a 1:00pm start time in Indianapolis and could potentially hold implications for the Patriots.  The Texans lost on Sunday, and should they lose to the Colts next weekend it could open up an opportunity for the Patriots to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Houston is currently the No. 1 seed in the AFC, with Denver currently holding the No. 2 seed.  Should the Broncos also lose (they’re playing against Kansas City), New England would potentially become the No. 1 seed – provided they take care of business against Miami.

One would have to believe the odds are better that the Colts, who battle the Texans at home, will come away with a win while the Chiefs – unless they’re going to go all out to send Romeo Crennel off with a win – will have a much harder time with Peyton Manning out in Denver.

Either way there’s a good chance most fans in New England will be watching intently to the outcome of the 1:00 game to see what happens with Houston.  That will certainly set the stage for a meaningful match-up when it’s over against the Dolphins, which is clearly what the league is hoping for.

Needless to say be sure and adjust your DVR’s accordingly.

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