Archive for January, 2013

5 Thoughts Following the Patriots AFC Championship Loss

This one is going to sting for a while.

The Patriots found themselves set up in great position for a potential rematch against the San Francisco 49ers down in New Orleans, but instead it was the Baltimore Ravens who came into Gillette Stadium and managed to avenge their untimely AFC Championship loss from last year with a 28-13 win.

They completely shut down the Patriots offense in the second half and put the game out of reach, squandering yet another year of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s tenure together here in New England.

Now that the whining is out of the way, here are five thoughts on a very tough loss:

1) This team is still in need of more talent offensively: They may have two all pro tight ends, but it’s clear this offense still needs some additional help.  The addition of Brandon Lloyd certainly helped them this season, but it’s time to send Deion Branch off to retirement and start exploring better options to help them on the perimeter.  Obviously Julian Edelman’s loss hurt them at the receiver spot as did the loss of Rob Gronkowski, but either way they need more help outside and hopefully we’ll see them avoid bringing in an old tired veteran and focus on bringing in someone else that can help them.  They only had 3 receivers who registered catches through the first half of the game, which once again saw them severely undermanned against an incredibly tough Ravens defense.  Having Gronkowski would have helped, but they still need to address this position.


One has to wonder why Patriots running back Shane Vereen wasn’t used more Sunday night. (FILE:USPresswire)

2) Ridley’s fumble wasn’t his fault: The second year running back has taken some heat this season, but it’s hard to lay the blame on him for the turnover.  Patriot-killer Bernard Pollard delivered a vicious helmet-to-helmet shot on the Patriots running back, knocking him unconscious and forcing the fumble.  Ridley left the game after that play, and this wasn’t an instance of Ridley being careless with the ball.  This was a case of being out cold thanks to another dirty hit by a player who has given us yet another reason to despise him even more than we already do.

3) Aqib Talib’s loss was tough to overcome: Once the Ravens finally figured out how to take advantage of Talib’s absence after the veteran suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of the game, they started attacking New England’s secondary and moving the ball.  Unfortunately Kyle Arrington suffered the brunt of many of the plays and it left a glaring reminder of the fact they either need to sign Talib or at least bring in additional talent that can match his efforts.  The former Buccaneer recently said that playing in New England is like playing in “football heaven”.  Hopefully the two sides can reach a deal while also bringing in some additional help at that position.

4) Brady was about as good as could be expected: The Ravens did a good job defensively taking a lot of the underneath routes away and making Brady work for each of his throws.  For the most part, especially in the first half, Brady did a good job of reading what the defense gave him and changing the play into match-ups they could exploit.  As the game went on, and especially after Ridley got hurt, they became one-dimensional and it’s obvious they went into panic mode.  It’s tough not to put some of the blame on offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels at that point.  Taking a step back they lost this game by only two touchdowns and were still very much in the game had they remained patient and potentially used Danny Woodhead or Shane Vereen to run the ball and at least keep Baltimore’s defense honest.

5) After seeing what they did last week, one has to wonder why Vereen wasn’t used more:  One of the things I really expected to see a lot of this week was the Patriots trying to get Vereen more involved in the game and work on moving him around to get him matched up on linebackers and try and exploit what had thought to be an old and tired Ravens defense.  Instead, that didn’t happen and when they look back at this game it’s going to be tough for Bill Belichick and McDaniels to not think they missed out on some big opportunities to take advantage of those match-ups.

It’s going to be a long offseason and it’s also going to be difficult to watch this year’s championship game and wonder what could have been.  But either way the months ahead should be an interesting look into what direction this team is heading in as they prepare to do it all again next season.  Hopefully some of these holes are addressed and we see some additional talent added to the roster.  Clearly what’s happened these last two seasons isn’t working, so if all goes well they’ll learn from their mistakes and make sure they’re in better shape when they take the field in 2013.

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Bill Belichick’s Post Game Press Conference Transcript

OPENING STATEMENT:

“Obviously a disappointing end to an overall pretty positive season. But tonight we just didn’t do enough things well enough to win. Give the Ravens credit, they’re a good football team. They just outplayed us and outcoached us tonight. Just made more plays than we did and that’s pretty much the story.”

On the changes the Ravens made in the second half that made things more difficult for them to score points:

“They did a good job. I wouldn’t say there was anything that they didn’t do in the first half, they just did a better job than we did.”

On how the injury to Aqib Talib affected their plans on defense:

“We had to make some adjustments. We lost Kyle [Love],we lost Talib…”

On if he was disappointed in their pass rush:

“Well, I just don’t think anything was really as good as it needed to be tonight. Gave up too many points, didn’t score enough, so… I’d say we probably came up a little short in every area.”

On how disappointed he is hat they measure success in winning championships, yet they haven’t won a Super Bowl in eight years:

“I don’t know. Just focused on this game.”

On his thoughts on the Ridley fumble and whether not he thought Ridley was down:

“It was the official’s call.”

On his thoughts on the call:

“It’s their call. They ruled it a turnover so it’s an official review – it’s not anything I can do.”

On if he had a chance to see the replay and his thoughts on the result:

“It doesn’t make any difference. The officials call the game.”

On if he thought Welker’s third down drop changed the game:

“Well, there’s a lot of plays in the game. There’s a lot of things that we could’ve done better – all of us. So I guess that it just really wasn’t good enough. Wasn’t as good as the Ravens tonight. So that’s why they’re moving on and we’re not. They were just better than we were in really everything.”

On how disappointed that he was that they didn’t take advantage of the field position that they had and the Ravens didn’t have in the first half:

“We are obviously disappointed that we didn’t win. I said that right off the bat. We’re disappointed in the results. What else do you want me to say?”

On how big he felt the field position was in the first half

“I don’t know. It was certainly to our advantage. We had a 13-7 lead. But look, we missed a lot of opportunities tonight. We were 1-for-3 in the red area, couldn’t stop them in the red area. So like I said, we gave up too many points and didn’t score enough.”

On how losing Talib early in the game affected what they wanted to do defensively and if it had any effect on the game plan:

“We had to make some adjustments, yes.”

On if he wanted to match up Talib on a particular receiver in the game and couldn’t do it after he got hurt:

“We had to make some adjustments on what we were doing. When Kyle went out, and when Talib without, we had to make some adjustments there. But I mean, that’s the National Football League.”

On what happened on the last drive in the first half and the fact by the time they got back to the line of scrimmage they only had four seconds left:

“Because if we had snapped the ball and run the play I think if we hadn’t scored, we wouldn’t of had time to get another play off. So we wanted to take the three points.”

On if there was any thought of calling in the immediate timeout after Tom Brady slid:

“Well, not really because I thought we could get up there and, whatever, we wanted to try and get up there and clock it and have time to run a play and have the timeout to kick the field goal. So no, not really. I guess if we had known that it would’ve taken as long as it did to get the football finally clocked, but then we didn’t get a great look on the play. Tom actually called timeout at the same time I did, so we just didn’t have it.”

On if they made any adjustments in the second half that hurt them offensively:

“Did they make any?”

Yes:

“No, I thought they pretty much played what they played in the second half, that’s what they played in the first half.”

On his thoughts on their run game tonight:

“I think everything could’ve been a little better. That’s the bottom line. Nothing was really good enough. A lot of things were okay. It was competitive, but it wasn’t just as good as the Ravens tonight in any area. So we just came up short.”

On the punt from the 35 if there is any thought about going for a field goal and if the wind influence the decision:

“No. There was no thought of kicking a field goal.”

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Tom Brady Post Game Press Conference Transcript

On what his emotions are right now:

“Disappointed. I think we obviously didn’t play very well, and if you don’t play very well against a good team, it’s not going to be very competitive. It’s unfortunate. We just couldn’t make any critical plays when we needed to.

On the fact they threw it so much compared to how many rushes they had and if that was a function of getting behind or if that was part of the game plan:

“We got behind in the second half there and became one-dimensional and just couldn’t string enough good plays together to get the ball in the end zone.”

On the fact he said earlier in the season that the toughness of their team is defined by being able to run the ball when other teams know it’s coming and if he felt they were able to do that tonight:

“You know, I’ll have to see the film. Whatever we did, we didn’t execute it very well. The name of the game is execution and if you don’t execute well against a good team, you’re not going to come up on the winning end.”

On the fact they had so many positive plays on early downs:

“Yeah, we stayed on track for the most part, avoided some negative plays. But they make it tough on you. They’re a good team, a very good defense. They kept the pressure on and we just didn’t really stand up to the challenge.”

On the fact he said how precious it was to be in the AFC championship game but how disappointing it is to not be on the winning end of it:

“Well, it’s part of the competition. You have the opportunity to win the game and we came up short. There’s frustration in that we wish we could have done better. But they’re not going to give it to you. We didn’t earn it. They earned it. They played a good game.”

On what happened at the end of the first half:

“Well, we had one timeout left so we were trying to save that for the field goal. We would’ve loved to have gotten the touchdown there but we settled for the field goal to go out, whatever it was, 13-7 at the half. We felt pretty good about where we were at halftime, we just didn’t come out in the second half and execute very well.”

On if there’s a little shock to the system now that there’s no more games left:

“Yeah, well it always comes to a screeching halt. That’s just the way it is. There’s only two teams that advance and those two teams deserve it. We’ve lost before, it takes a while to get over.”

On if by the way it was set up for them, if he feels this was an opportunity lost:

“Yeah, I think being in the situation of the playoffs, it’s always an opportunity lost when you lose because you know, we think we have a pretty good team. We just didn’t play well.”

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Patriots Mesko Was a Difference Maker Sunday

Heading into Sunday’s showdown against the Ravens if history is any indication, the odds are pretty good that this will be a tough game that could come down to a field goal between two great football teams.


Mesko was a difference maker Sunday against Houston. (FILE:USPresswire)

When it comes to low scoring games every yard counts, as does starting field position.  That being said, one thing that really stood out during their win over the Texans was how effective punter Zoltan Mesko was in terms of really helping the Patriots defense out after their offense sputtered and really could have given Houston great field position.

He’s been terrific all season, and he finished the afternoon with 5 punts for 264 yards (52.8 avg – 49.4 net) including two inside the 20.  His longest one of the day went for 64 yards, which was extremely impressive considering New England punted from their own 15 yard line and put Houston all the way back on the other end of the field at their own 21.

Here’s a breakdown of his afternoon:

1) 1st QTR – 12:48: Patriots punt from their own 27 yard line.  Punt goes for 61 yards with a 5 yard return, Texans start at their own 17.

2) 1st QTR – 6:00: Patriots punt from their own 35 yard line.  Punt goes for 57 yards with a 12 yard return, and the Texans start at their own 20.

3) 2nd QTR – 0:31: Mesko punts from their own 30 yard line.   Punt goes for 32 yards with no return, Texans start at their own 38.

4) 3rd QTR – 8:57: Patriots punt from their own 40 yard line.  Punt goes for 50 yards and no return, Texans start at their own 10.

5) 4th QTR – 10:11:  Patriots punt from their own 15 yard line.  Punt goes for 64 yards and no return, Texans start at their own 21.

On three of Mesko’s five punts the Patriots punted from at or inside their own 30 yard line, two of which Mesko managed to pin the Texans at or inside their own 20.  Granted this game ended up being more or less in hand, but against tougher opponents the swing in field position is huge because shorter kicks can lead to – at the very least – field goal attempts.

Against the Ravens that’s what it could come down to.  But fortunately with a kicker like Mesko New England has the upper hand in at least making sure Baltimore will have longer to go on each drive.

That’s an asset that can’t be overlooked, and one that makes you really appreciate just how valuable he is to this football team.

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After going over the full stat breakdown from Sunday’s win over Houston, while looking at the rushing statistics it was interesting to note that the Patriots completely avoided running off right tackle or off the end on that side of the line.

Here’s a full breakdown of each zone including player stats:

LEFT END
Stevan Ridley: 2 carries, 4 yards (2.0 avg)
Shane Vereen: 1 carry, -1 yards (-1.0 avg)

LEFT TACKLE
Shane Vereen: 3 carries, 29 yards (9.7 avg), 1 TD
Stevan Ridley: 1 carry, 23 yards (23.0 avg)

LEFT GUARD
Shane Vereen: 1 carry, 4 yards (4.0 avg)
Danny Woodhead: 1 carry, 0 yards (0.0 avg)
Stevan Ridley: 3 carries, -1 yards (-0.3 avg)

MIDDLE
Stevan Ridley: 4 carries, 22 yards (5.5 avg)
Shane Vereen: 1 carry, 1 yard (1.0 avg)

RIGHT GUARD
Stevan Ridley: 5 carries, 34 yards (6.8 avg), 1 TD
Shane Vereen: 1 carry, 8 yards (8.0 avg)

RIGHT TACKLE
No attempts.

RIGHT END
No attempts.

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Recapping Sunday’s New England Patriots Milestones


Brady set a playoff franchise record with his 23rd start Sunday. (FILE:USPresswire)

Taking another quick look at Sunday’s win over the Texans, here’s a short list of some of the milestones reached by the Patriots as they get set for yet another AFC Championship game this weekend against the Baltimore Ravens:

- Tom Brady started his 23rd career postseason game on Sunday, setting a new franchise record.  The previous record had been 22 by former linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

- Brady’s 3rd quarter 5-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd was his 40th career postseason touchdown pass, making him the 3rd player in NFL history with 40 or more postseason touchdown throws.

- Brady’s 33yd 4th quarter touchdown strike to Shane Vereen put Brady over 300 yards passing on the afternoon, giving him his 5th career postseason game with 300 yards passing.

- That same touchdown was Vereen’s 3rd of the day, tying a franchise record with former Patriots running back Curtis Martin, as well as current tight end Rob Gronkowski.  Fans may remember that Gronkowski scored three touchdowns during last year’s AFC Divisional round against Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.

- Finally as most fans probably know, after beating the Texans Brady won his 17th postseason game, setting a new NFL mark after passing childhood idol Joe Montana. That brings him to 17-6 overall during his incredible career in New England, and he and the Patriots will be looking for #18 this weekend at home against the Ravens.

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5 Thoughts Following the Patriots Win Over Houston

The Houston Texans did a good job of making you believe Sunday’s AFC Divisional Playoff game wouldn’t be a repeat of their earlier regular season meeting from a month ago, but in the end the Patriots took care of business one final time with a 41-28 win at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

The Texans managed to keep it close through one half of play, trailing just 17-13 through the opening two quarters.  However, in the second half New England kicked it into gear and ultimately ran away with the football game, sending Houston back to Logan Airport for another long flight – one that this time ended their season.


Shane Vereen came up big for the Patriots on Sunday against Houston. (FILE:USPresswire)

Looking back on the game, here were five things that stood out:

1) Rob Gronkowski’s loss hurts, but it isn’t the end of the world: Patriots fans watched with much dismay after tight end Rob Gronkowksi reportedly re-fractured his forearm early in the first quarter on Sunday against Houston.  He favored it heavily in his first game back against the Dolphins two weeks ago but most had believed he was simply saving himself for the postseason.  Instead it’s clear the injury was bad enough where his arm wasn’t ready for the rigors of football, with the third year tight end injuring it after landing awkwardly following a pass attempt from Tom Brady just minutes into the contest.  They’ve already lived without him for a month, which if nothing else has them a little more prepared heading into next weeks’ game against Baltimore.  With the tight end sidelined we saw the Patriots try and use another weapon in the passing game in Shane Vereen, who showed he can certainly be dangerous as a receiver.  Gronk’s loss is disappointing, but they’re fortunate this time around that they have additional receiving threats to still be dangerous.

2) Stevan Ridley’s presence made a big difference this postseason - Ridley’s fumble during last year’s playoffs earned him a spot on the bench and the Patriots ended up being the lesser for it.  He’s far more explosive than BenJarvus Green-Ellis was and does such a great job of reading what the defense gives him and then darting through the hole and powering his way for as much yardage as he can get.  This kid is clearly special and he gives them a threat they haven’t had in years.  For the Patriots to finish what they started on Sunday, they’ll need more from that from Ridley in the week’s ahead.

3) Zoltan Mesko was a difference maker on Sunday - One thing that kind of gets lost is just how valuable Mesko really is to this football team.  On several occasions where the Patriots found themselves backed up and forced to punt the ball away, Mesko did a great job of putting Houston back deep in their own territory instead of potentially surrendering good field position that could have allowed them an easier chance to get back in the football game.  It’s not a “sexy” position by any means, but his value is immense to this football team and he’s a big reason why New England managed to win yet another home playoff game on Sunday.

4) Rob Ninkovich was once again Brilliant - There was a lot of concern when the veteran linebacker suffered a hip injury against Miami two weeks ago, and Sunday showed you why it was so important that he was on the field.  Ninkovich made plays all afternoon, including a key interception that killed a drive by the Texans and effectively ended the game because it helped set up a scoring drive by the Patriots to put them up 31-13 in the closing minutes of the 3rd quarter.  That turnover ultimately put New England in position to put the game out of reach, and that scoring drive basically had them in complete control during the final quarter of play.

5) Wes Welker is an invaluable part of this offense – Watching Wes Welker on Sunday, it’s tough to imagine this offense without him on the field.  Obviously many discussions have been had about the fact that Julian Edelman could potentially replace him, but watching a lot of the catches he made against Houston, it’s no longer even fair to compare the two players. Welker is tough as nails, and made some unbelievable receptions while also taking some vicious shots.  Yet each time he got up and went back to the huddle to get ready for the next play.  Opposing defenses are forced to account for him, and even when he is covered he still has the potential to make a big play – as he showed Sunday with a tremendous one-handed sideline catch in between two defenders.  They can live without Gronkowksi – they can’t live without Welker.

So far they’re off to a good start, with an AFC Championship showdown now looming against the Ravens. It should be an interesting week with a lot of the talking that Baltimore is notorious for, so be sure and keep it here as we’ll have plenty of coverage this week beginning Monday afternoon.

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Tom Brady’s Postgame Press Conference Transcript

On how big Shane Vereen was today:

“Yeah, you know there were a bunch of guys that made good plays. Shane had a great game, just a huge growing up moment for him – very special. It was for everybody, a lot of guys made a lot of plays. We needed it. It was a good football team, a lot of good players but we’ve got another one coming in next week.”

On his thoughts on passing Joe Montana for most postseason wins:

“Well, I hope I’m around for a few more years. I know this was an important win for our team and that’s always the number one goal for me.”

On how hard it was to make the adjustments after Danny Woodhead and Rob Gronkowski went down with injuries:

“Well I think that’s been the mark of our team. We’ve won 11 of 12, we were down 31 to 3 at home and battled back. I think we’re going to be in it. We’ve got a lot of tough guys, mentally tough guys. You know, whatever happens, like what happened on the first play of the game, you’ve got to overcome it. We made some key plays when we needed to, Shane made them, Wes made them, Brandon made them, so it was a great effort. The offensive line was awesome, as usual.”

On his thoughts on losing Rob Gronkowski for the playoffs:

“I don’t know anything about that. I haven’t heard anything.”

On if he ever imagined passing Joe Montana as a kid:

“Well I love playing and I love competing, I love being a part of this team and this organization. It’s a lot of mentally tough guys and I think I’ve just been fortunate to play on some great teams over the years. I very much appreciate that. I never take it for granted and I’m always going to try to be the best teammate and leader I can possibly be.”

On if he’s disappointed that won’t be a Brady/Manning matchup:

“Well, you know I think the two best teams are in the finals. I mean Baltimore certainly deserves to be here and so do we. So it’s very fitting. We played them earlier in the year, they got us, we blew a pretty big lead there at the end but we’re going to have to play our best game this week.”

On if his mind’s already clicked forward a little bit: 

“I’m tired man.  There’s a lot of emotional energy spent. I mean it’s a big buildup to the week, four days of practice and you’re up and you’re down, you’re up and you’re down, I’m tired. I’m ready to go home.”

On if it was disappointing seeing Rob Gronkowksi leave the game:

“Sure. Like I said we had a whole plan built for him and for [Danny Woodhead] and we run the first series of the game and then all those plans change. I think a little bit was, ‘What are we going to do now? How are we going to adjust?’ But you know, we seemed to settle in there midway through the first quarter and put together a pretty good game. Obviously it’s a bummer to lose anybody, but somebody of Rob’s importance or Danny’s importance, we need guys to step in and fill the void whether it’s this game or any game hereafter.”

On how much they really changed the plans they had or if they just did it with different guys:

“Well, there’s adjustments. Like I said we have certain plays for certain guys. Rob and Danny are a big part of the plan but that’s what Josh [McDaniels] does best. He gets guys in the best position to make plays and always comes up with a way to adapt and scheme things up and third down, and red area, and there’s no one better in the league.”

On the explanation given to him late in the game on the play were Stevan Ridley was still fighting for yards but the play was blown dead:

“I wasn’t happy. He [the official] wasn’t happy either but that’s part of the game. He’s a good official, I mean all the best officials are working this weekend. So I think it’s just the heat of the moment. I get excited, but it’s always good.”

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Bill Belichick’s Post Game Press Conference Transcript

Opening statement:

“Well it’s good to be able to play in the AFC championship game next week. I’m really proud of our players. I thought they worked hard all year. Today was a big win for us. The Texans are a good football team. They fought hard. They battled us all the way to the end. They’ve got a lot of good football players but fortunately we had a bunch of guys step up today and make the plays that we needed to make. It wasn’t perfect, there are certainly a lot of things we could do better. But it was a good win. I’m happy for the players. I think they really earned it. They a good week of practice. I thought they really did a good job preparing for this game and it was good to see us make enough plays here to win. We know Baltimore’s tough, we had a great game with them down there earlier in the season. We know that’ll be a battle next week but we’ll enjoy this one for a little while and then get on to the Ravens tomorrow.”

On how much the impact of losing Danny Woodhead and Rob Gronkowksi had on them:

“Well, [Michael Hoomanawanui] and Shane [Vereen] stepped in there and both did a great job for us. I mean Shane obviously made a lot of big plays, but Hooman to great job too, as he’s been doing for the last month. These kind of games you never really know when the dial spins, who it’s going to end up on in those guys were prepared. Offensively we were able to move the ball, put up some points, so it’s a credit to everybody to be ready.”

On if Rob Gronkowksi broke his arm again:

“I’m not sure.”

On if he went to the hospital…

“Look, I just walked off the field, I don’t know.”

On how big Devin McCourty was, stopping Houston on the opening kickoff from returning the kick all the way for a touchdown:

“Yeah, it was a huge play. Devin’s done that a couple of times for us. It was great speed, tracking Manning down. Obviously Manning did a great job. You know, they hadn’t used him on kickoff returns all year until last week and he led the league in Chicago. We have a lot of respect for him, we knew what he could do. We didn’t do a very good job most of the time. But that was a huge play by Devin to really end up saving three points. Our defense when in there, had a big stop on the sudden change on a big return. So that was really a huge series in the game. Didn’t get off to a good start but at least minimized the damage of three points.”

On if there were any questions whether or not Rob Gostkowski was ready to return because it’s the same injury:

“He wouldn’t have played if he wasn’t.”

On if he has any regrets and playing him being as he suffered the same injury:

“The doctors handle the medical decisions.”

On the play of Rob Ninkovich and what he means to the defense:

“I mean Rob’s been productive for us all year. He’s had a great season. His production’s right up there at the very top of the league at his position. He’s made big plays for us in the past, you know sacks, strips, fumbles, recovered fumbles, tackles for a loss, all that. You know he’s got good hands, he’s had many interceptions before and made a great play on the ball there. We blitzed from the outside, he dropped out inside, got underneath the route and really made a great catch on the ball. It was a high, tough catch but Rob’s a good athlete and he makes it look easy. Catches the ball very well. That was huge play for us, big stop and then we were able to convert that into points offensively. That was a big key play in the game for us.”

On what they did schematically to control J.J. Watt during the game:

“Well, you know I think you just have to give credit to the guys up front. It’s not about X’s and O’s, somebody’s got block ‘em, whether it was Dan [Connolly] or [Ryan Wendell] or Logan [Mankins]. Of course he moves around a little bit and when they stunt, he can end up out there on the tackles too, Sebastian [Vollmer] had him a bunch. I mean whoever has to block him just has to block him. You know, they run games and they him around a little bit and he’s a great football player. But the credit goes to the players. You don’t block him on the chalkboard. You’ve got to get out there and block him and just credit the offensive line and the backs. The backs did a good job reading the holes and getting through there. We tried not to dance around, we found some daylight and Stevan [Ridley] and Shane [Vereen] hit it and so it’s good execution in the running game there at times too.”

On Tom Brady passing Joe Montana’s playoff win record:

“Of course Tom’s meant a lot to us since he’s been here. He started winning these playoff games the first year he really got a chance to participate in them.  Tom’s a great competitor, he had a great week of preparation as he always does for every game but especially the playoff games. He’s our leader and we all follow him, we all respect him and he led the team today along with a lot of other guys but he certainly did his part as he’s done many times before. [There’s] no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady.”

On the mismatches they created with Shane Vereen:

“Well, we used some different formations to try to move some people around and as Tom usually does, he finds the best matchups depending on the route in the coverage and so forth. He does a great job getting the ball to the guys that have a good opportunity to win on those routes. A lot of credit goes to Tom for finding them, but also to Shane for running good routes, catching the ball in tight coverage, running after the catch, all those things. Obviously it’s something we worked on during the week and when Tom saw matchups that he liked out there, he was able to take advantage of them.”

On the fact they matched up Aqib Talib with Andre Johnson and how big of an advantage it is a defense to have a guy that can run with an All-Pro:

“It was a great battle. It was two good football players. Johnson’s a great receiver. I mean, he’s arguably one or two of all-time – he’s tremendous. He’s big, fast, he’s got great hands, good route runner.  Aqib competed with him, every down just like he did in the first half of the first game. That’s two good football players and that’s battle. We didn’t give him a lot of help. Johnson caught a few, but Aqib battled him pretty well there.  So it was a good match up.”

On the fact they were able to do a good job stopping them on third down:

“We had them in some long yardage situations, which are good that we had them in the third quarter in a couple of long yardage situations before Rob’s interception to let them off the hook. But third-down starts on first and second down and it just comes down to team defense. Good pass rush, good coverage and keeping the yardage longer by playing better on first and second down.  I thought we did a good job in the running game until we got to that last drive in the second quarter.  [Arian] Foster hit a couple runs there to the weak side in the score before the half but because we were able to hold off a few of those runs that put them in some third long situations, but it was good team defense. I don’t think it’s any one guy. But third-down is obviously critical for us and our red area stop was big too.”

On the difference between Arian Foster and Ray Rice:

“Well, they’re both great backs. They’re both great backs. I mean, Foster’s really, he’s fast, he’s really fast. Not that Rice isn’t, I mean we’ve seen Rice unfortunately, we’ve seen the back of his jersey a couple of times.  Foster really does a good job of hitting the crease and he gains a lot of yards just on his speed running away from people – similar to Chris Johnson. I’m not saying that fast, but that type of guy. So they’re different…they’re different.  They’re both good.”

On the fact they relied on Wes Welker early in the game and on his catch on the sideline:

“Yeah, it was a great catch. You know, Wes – he’s tremendous receiver, great competitor. We felt like at times there was a good match up with him in the slot and he did a good job in there. Again, Tom made some good throws and Wes is tough to cover. Tom had some good weapons to work with and he was able to move the ball around and get it to a bunch of them. We had good balance offensively overall. It was pretty good.”

On how much he looks forward to going up against Ed Reed:

“I don’t look forward to it at all. I’m glad were playing him, let’s put it that way. Ed’s a great football player. The Ravens have an obviously outstanding team – defense, special teams, offense, they’re good all the way around, very well coached. We thought that they were as tough as anybody we’ve played all year. We had a great game with them down there at the beginning of the season and so now it comes back to a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game. We know it will be tough and hopefully we can play our best game next week.”

On the Foster challenge and the fact it looked like his elbow was down:

“It sure did. But it wasn’t short. I thought we had the ball out there in the third quarter on that fumble and they ruled forward progress, so we couldn’t challenge the play. They ruled him down by forward progress. That was a tough call. Then the fourth down call which we were able to stop them on fourth down on the sequence, but still that was a huge play there. It looked like, I thought, when his elbow went down the ball hadn’t crossed the line but evidently they didn’t see enough evidence for that. Those were couple of calls – the one we would’ve challenged but we couldn’t because it was forward progress. And then the touchdown catch, the official right on the spot thought the ball was moving and called incomplete and then that one got overturned so you’d have to ask officials exactly what they saw. I think it’s kind of what we saw.”

On his thoughts on seeing this playoff rivalry with Tom Brady coming in as a sixth round pick:

“I don’t know. I think right now our focus is just happy to win this game and get on to Baltimore and we can reflect on some other year some other time.”

On the fact the ravens a to come in here on an emotional high and how they’re going to match the intensity:

“Look, they’re great football team. They’re well coached, they have a lot of outstanding players, they’ve got some great veteran players. They’ve got guys that can score, guys that can rush, guys that can defend, guys that can return, guys that can cover. I mean look, that’s why they’re here. If you’re playing at this time of year, each game gets tougher, each game gets bigger, each game gets tougher. I think the ravens certainly showed how physically and mentally tough they were to go out there and come from behind and the Denver in a tough environment. That showed a lot of character, resiliency and toughness. Our game with them this year, our game with them last year went down to the last possession, the last play – however you want to look at it. And there are other games with them over the years that usually come down to the final possession and sometimes the final play. Even going all the way back to ’09, unfortunately not the playoff game, but the regular-season. So that’s what we’re going to prepare for this week – a tough team mentally and physically that has a lot of talent, that’s very confident. They’ve gone on the road and won so we know that they’ll, I mean I don’t think that will phase them. I we just got a go out there and play and coach better than they do and that will be a big challenge. But that’s we have to do.”

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Grogan’s Grade: Week 16 – Wild Card Weekend Preview

PatsFans.com 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 Patriots easily dispatched the Dolphins in the frigid conditions at Foxboro 28-0 and secured a number two seed in the process. Didn’t it seem like the Patriots played that entire first half on the Miami side of the field?

Steve Grogan: It seemed like it. They missed out on a couple of scoring opportunities but I’ll tell you with the weather, the wind blowing the way it was, I thought they handled everything extremely well knowing they had to win to lock up that bye week. They came out and did everything they needed to do. It was a really nice performance by the Patriots.

RRM: Once again Wes Welker just decimated his former club with 8 catches for 94 yards and a score. Outside of Tom Brady it really looked like he was easily the most dominating player on the field on Sunday?

SG: Yes, he just always seems to play well against them and whenever you need a big play, Sunday he was the guy that Brady was going to. He just kept making big plays picking up first downs over and over and over again. It’s fun watching him play.

RRM: Well it was nice to see the big tight end Rob Gronkowski back in action after a six week absence from the broken left forearm. The CBS broadcasters pointed out that he looked to be a little cautious trying to protect that left forearm, especially in blocking situations. But at least he looked like his former self at the end of the game with a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter and his patented end zone celebration spike?

SG: He had a couple catches, one for the touchdown. His spike for the touchdown wasn’t quite as demonstrative as it normally is and he was protecting that arm. I’m not sure whether he decided to do that or if that was the way he was told to play but he was definitely not using his left arm to block anybody and that’s probably the smart thing. He gets another couple of weeks for it to heal up now and I would think by the time their playoff game rolls around he’ll be completely healthy and able to do what he needs to do.

RRM: Well there wasn’t any rain or snow to deal with on the field but the cold seemed to affect the Dolphins while it didn’t seem to bother Tom Brady at all. Having played in cold weather many times, can you tell us if it really is a mind over matter type of thing to deal with?

SG: It’s definitely mind over matter and when you’re winning the game it’s much easier to play in a cold game like that. That’s why it was, I thought, important for the Patriots to get up on the Dolphins fairly early. Because when you’re a team that’s got nothing to play for and it’s that cold and all of a sudden you’re two touchdowns down in the first half, all you want to do is get the game over with, get on the bus, go home, and get in your car and go to your offseason home. That’s kind of what the Dolphins looked like Sunday. They didn’t totally quit on them, but after they got down a couple of touchdowns you could tell the cold was getting to them and they just wanted to get out of there.

RRM: Tom Brady challenged his offensive line to get their act together during the week and they protected him very well in this game, I think they allowed just one sack and that came on a corner blitz. Is that type of thing something you ever did or considered doing during your playing career?

SG: I don’t remember ever having to do anything like that, but I didn’t have the cache that Tom Brady has after winning three Super Bowls [Laughs].

RRM: I was going to say I don’t think every quarterback can do that, right [Laughs]?

SG: No, I don’t think every quarterback can do that. He’s in a position where he can get away with it. They certainly did a great job of protecting him and I thought they did a really nice job of run blocking in the second half when you wanted to run the clock out and keep the ball on the ground. They did a really good job.

RRM: The Patriots defense turned in a season high seven sacks against Miami and maintained steady pressure even after Rob Ninkovich left the game with a hip injury. This has to be one of the biggest factors in the Patriots getting the shutout in this last game of the season?

SG: The defense played well, the people up front played well. To get seven sacks in a game is really impressive. It’s got to be a concern losing Ninkovich, having him come off the field. But I think they said it was a ‘hip’ so if it’s a ‘hip pointer’ he’ll be probably ready to play. If it was a knee or an ankle, he certainly may have had a problem. But they certainly kept pressure on Tannehill and it’s kind of the way we’ve been wanting to see this defense play all year and they finally came through and did it. Hopefully they can keep it up in the playoffs.


“He had a big game and I don’t remember them calling his name at all earlier in the year so it’s nice to see a young guy like that come out and have a big game. It’s great for his confidence and hopefully he’ll keep it up.” – Steve Grogan on the play of Justin Francis. (FILE:USPresswire)

RRM: Once again the Patriots dominated the Pro Bowl roster and the unsung Matthew Slater was named as a special teams player. It seems week after week we never mention the special teams coverage because there’s not much to talk about. But he is a big factor in why the Patriots have done so well in special teams coverage?

SG: There’s no question Slater is a great special teams player and is able to fill in at a couple of different positions on the offensive and defensive side of the ball when he has to. So he’s a valuable asset to this team and it’s nice to see him be recognized by going to the Pro Bowl with all the hard work he puts in on those special teams.

RRM: Well, Peyton Manning came up with another big game for the Broncos to clinch the number one seed in the AFC, and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson fell 9 yards short of the all time season rushing record, and of course Tom Brady with his usual perfunctory effort. I’ve given you a week to consider, so we all want to know who gets Steve Grogan’s MVP vote for 2012?

SG: I would have to say in my book Adrian Peterson for what he did coming back from a knee injury and leading his team into the playoffs when they weren’t expected to be that good. He would be the most valuable player to me. Peyton Manning would be a close second, coming back from his neck surgery, but he’s got a lot of weapons around him out there in Denver and has done well…and then Tom Brady has also had a great year. But I just think the Peterson story, nobody thought he’d be able to come back and do what he did after tearing that knee up as badly as he did. Then to lead his team into the playoffs, I mean, they weren’t a playoff caliber team without him. So Adrian Peterson’s got my vote.

RRM: I think everybody in America was rooting for him to get into the end zone on that last run before the field goal, but to fall 9 yards short like that was just heartbreaking.

SG: It is heartbreaking and if it had gone to overtime he would have broken the record and then you would have had the argument that back when Dickerson was playing I don’t think they had overtime…so does it count the same way or whatever? He had a great year, and sometimes 9 yards, it’s a game of inches and Sunday it was a game of yards for him.

RRM: The consensus is the loss to San Francisco has taken Tom Brady out of consideration. But of Manning and Peterson, who do you think the voters will elect as the MVP?

SG: The voters I think will probably pick Peyton Manning just because he’s the sentimental favorite and he’s a quarterback and that puts him a step ahead. But again, in my book, if you look at what Adrian Peterson meant to his team compared to what Peyton Manning did for his team, I’d have to go with Adrian Peterson but I think the voters will probably go with Manning.

RRM: Well, we should take a moment to recognize long time Patriots radio voice Gil Santos, who along with his longtime broadcast partner Gino Cappelletti were both honored before the start of the last regular-season game. For those who don’t know Gil he’s been doing games for, I think 10 years before you arrived on the scene with the Patriots in 1975 and has been there long after you left. That’s quite a legacy to sum up.

SG: It really is. The two of them I think I heard them say worked together for 28 years and Gil’s been doing it for 30. There was a time back in the 80s where Gil wasn’t doing it, but then he came back in the early 90s. The two of them had a great combination going. Gil’s a true professional, can broadcast any kind of sport and Gino’s, of course, Gino Cappelletti – he’s a legend in New England. He was with the team when it started, scored the first points in the AFL and became a very, very good color commentator for a long time. So it’s going to be a sad day next year when the season starts and we’re not going to hear Gil and of course Gino retired before the season which, he just got tired of the travel at his age. But the two of them together were the best.

RRM: And for those who never had the pleasure of meeting either of them at any of these events, they’re two of the nicest people you would ever want to meet.

SG: There’s no question about that, two of the nicest people you would ever want to meet.

RRM: Thanks to the Indianapolis Colts knocking off Houston the Patriots will have a bye week on Wild Card weekend. Give us your thoughts on the upcoming match-ups: #6 Cincinnati at #3 Houston and #5 Indy at #4 Baltimore?

SG: Both of those games you look at home-field advantage being the decisive factor. I think Houston’s played well at home, they’ve been struggling lately but I don’t think Cincinnati has enough to beat them in Houston. The Colts have had nice a story, a nice run and did a great thing for the Patriots on Sunday by beating Houston. But having to go in the Baltimore and win there is going to be very difficult, I would give the edge to Baltimore. But that’s going to be an interesting matchup because it’s the old Colts going back to where they came from, playing the new team in Baltimore and I’m sure it’ll get a lot of press this week.

RRM: With the way this shakes down the Patriots can’t play the lowest seed, #6 Cincinnati. But if they did manage to upset Houston, who would you like to see emerge from that Indy – Baltimore matchup and come up here and play New England the week after?

SG: I think I’d rather play Indianapolis if I had to. It’s young quarterback, Bill Belichick’s always had a way of getting into young quarterbacks heads with different kinds of looks and the patriots have struggled at times over the years playing the Baltimore Ravens, particularly in the playoffs. So I think the Ravens would be a far more formidable foe to try and beat as opposed to Indianapolis.

RRM: Well if things hold true to form and Houston wins, the Texas will make a return visit Foxboro in two weeks. We talked about the time when the Patriots took them out to the woodshed that’s sometimes when you beat a team that badly it can come back to bite you. If this game should emerge, do you think Houston is capable of rebounding, especially the way they finished the season, be able to put up a good road effort in the cold at New England?

SG: Of course they’re capable of doing that, but I think it’ll be very difficult for Houston to come into it New England and play in the cold. They’re a dome team, to come play in the cold, who knows what the weather will be like. Knowing that the Patriots manhandled them the first time around, I think that would be a difficult game for them to come up to New England and have to try to win.

RRM: And of course the age-old question, but are the Patriots better off with the week off, or do the teams that play this week actually have an advantage because they stayed fresh and rhythm?

SG: I don’t know if anybody’s ever done a study to see what the percentages are, but my guess would be the people that have the bye week that have a week to kind of heal up and lick their wounds and get ready for their first playoff game have a better percentage of winning than the ones that don’t. So I would say this is a good time for the Patriots. They could take a couple days off in the coaches have two weeks to prepare for whatever team they’re going to play against and that gives them an advantage.

RRM: So what are Grogan’s Grades for the season-ending 28-0 win?

SG: I have to give them A’s across the board. I thought everybody played well on every aspect of the game. A’s are what they deserve.

RRM: Aside from Welker and Brady, I thought one guy we might want to mention is Justin Francis who had three sacks. His name’s kind of come out of nowhere this last month of the season, but certainly at an opportune time?

SG: Yeah, he had a big game and I don’t remember them calling his name at all earlier in the year so it’s nice to see a young guy like that come out and have a big game. It’s great for his confidence and hopefully he’ll keep it up.

Grogan’s Grade:

Offense: A
Defense: A
Special Teams: A

Overall: A

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