Tag Archives: Drew Brees

Patriots Congratulate Drew Brees For Setting NFL Passing Record

Robert Alvarez
October 9, 2018 at 2:36 pm ET

During Monday Night Football, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees set the NFL all-time record for career passing yards following a 62 yard touchdown pass to receiver Tre’Quan Smith.

Brees finished the game with a career total of 72,103 passing yards, surpassing Peyton Manning’s 71,940 for first place all-time.

Following the record breaking touchdown pass, current and former Patriots took to their social media accounts to congratulate the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

https://twitter.com/damienwoody/status/1049473481644085248

Former Patriot Donte’ Stallworth also took time to share  a person story from his first meeting with Brees.

As an added bonus, here is Peyton Manning congratulating Brees for breaking his record.

Patriots, Brady Answer the Bell, Smother Saints 36-20 Observations

Steve Balestrieri
September 17, 2017 at 6:18 pm ET

Ok, now everyone can back away from the ledge. The Patriots did just what they needed to do after a bad performance in the Week 1 loss to the Chiefs, they dominated the game on offense and the Saints defense had on answers for the Patriots offense as the team ran out for 30 points in a pivotal first half and cruised to an easy win on the road.

It wasn’t all pretty, there are still several areas to tighten up on, but as we’ve seen for years with Bill Belichick and this team, it is always done be degrees and this team was infinitely better than the team that stepped on the field 10 days ago.

So after Buffalo thudded back to earth in Carolina, the Patriots find themselves tied with Buffalo at the top of the AFC East at 1-1. Miami and the Jets are still playing at this point although the Jets are trailing as we speak.  Here are some other observations on this one:

Tom Brady Skewers Saints “D”: We talked coming into this game that we’d be shocked if this offense didn’t score between 30-35 points. I predicted a 34-24 win. They actually went a bit more than that and left some points on the field in the process.

Brady entered the game with just three healthy wide receivers and put on an absolute clinic in the first quarter throwing for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

Brady overall was surgical, completing 30-39 for 447 yards and three touchdowns, no interceptions, no interceptions with a passer rating of 139.6

He went to his running backs more in this one, mostly James White and completed 13 passes for 143 yards to the backs who stepped up big time in the passing game this week. Brady was frequently under duress but stood tall in the pocket and delivered. Despite being short of WRs today, Brady completed passes to nine different players today.

Defense Steps Up: It still is far from what they’ll expect later in the season, but it is only Week 2. The defense was gashed a week ago by the Chiefs, and all week the lament was “what is Drew Brees and the Saints going to do?” Well, the defense stepped up big, especially in the running game. New Orleans ran for 81 yards, helped by a big run on the last play of the game by Mark Ingram. But that was much, much better for Matt Patricia’s unit. Take away that last run which skewed the stats and the Saints averaged 3.3. Yards per Rush.

Anytime you can go to New Orleans and hold Drew Brees and the Saints to two touchdowns, you’ve done your job. And this defense definitely did that today. They still need to work on their communications for the rub routes and pick plays but overall this was a much better effort.

Minnesota is supposed to have one of the best defenses in the NFL. They allowed 19 points at home to New Orleans. This same Saints offense at home where they are much more effective scored just one more point. Mission accomplished.

Gronk Has a Big Game Before Injuring Groin: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski heard the talk about him supposedly losing a step this week after Eric Berry did a masterful job of slowing him down this week.

He too, answered the bell this week, hauling in six passes for 116 yards and a score, including his broken play 53-yard touchdown where it was vintage Gronkowski. He got free down the sideline, got the pass and shook off a tackle and then the big man rumbled into the end zone for a score and treating the fans to the first Gronk spike since Week 8 a year ago.

He then left the game and running another seam route and taking the ball deep into New Orleans territory he went down awkwardly and went straight into the medical tent. He was seen later pedaling the exercise bike on the sideline. We’ll have to see what transpires this week on the Wednesday practice and injury report.

Situational Football Pays Off: One thing we always love to watch in practice is the team practicing their situational football scenarios. Bill Belichick calls out downs, distances and time on the clock and the team has to respond. No one does it more and better than the Pats.

Today was a prime example of this. After stopping the Saints just before the half, the Patriots were driving and in a position to score to go up big at halftime. Brady led them down the field and on third down he scrambled but came up two yards short of a first down.

The reacted perfectly. The kicking unit ran on the field, the offense got off and Stephen Gostkowski had time to get set and boot a field goal to end the half that put the team up 30-13 at the break. It was a huge switch in momentum and was a prime example of why they practice those plays.

Deatrich Wise Steps Up Nicely in His Second Game: The rookie defensive lineman got a ton of reps today. Looking at the defensive line, there was a ton of youth out there at times with Wise, Adam Butler and Trey Flowers providing the pass rush.

Wise finished with two tackles, a sack and five QB hits on Brees. The young lineman from Arkansas had a very good summer and is off to a very good start in his NFL career. The pass rush wasn’t great today, especially considering the state of the Saints offensive line but it was good enough.

Cassius Marsh only had a few snaps but got some good pressure as well. His coming off the left end saved a touchdown as Brees had to unload the ball early and his pass was short, with his wide receiver open in the end zone.

Offensive Line Didn’t Play Well: The offensive line play will be an area where the coaches will try to settle things down this week, with Houston coming into town. Brady was under pressure far too often although they only sacked him twice. Nate Solder, in particular, struggled with Cameron Jordan.

But they also had a mixed bag in the running game. Overall the Patriots managed 119 yards on the ground which is good but only for a 3.8 yard per carry average. The run blocking will have to be better as we go on but again when you score 36 points and run up 555 yards on offense, there aren’t too many dings against the offense. However, the coaches will point to the 3 of 7 in the red zone as a teaching point this week.

Call the MASH Unit: The injuries continue to pile up. New England entered the game with just three healthy wide receivers and had two of them plus Gronkowski going down. Chris Hogan looked like he had a thigh injury and Phillip Dorsett also came up limping in what looked to be an ankle or foot problem.

Eric Rowe was injured which opened the door for Jonathan Jones to come in and he played very well, breaking up a couple of passes, one in the end zone on a very head’s up play. Rex Burkhead suffered a rib injury and left the game. It will be interesting to see who is healthy enough to go next week against Houston.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Saints Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 15, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The New England Patriots find themselves in unfamiliar territory after the first week of the season at the wrong end of a 0-1 record. To even things up, they have to travel to the New Orleans Mercedes Benz Superdome where the Saints are always tough to beat. The Saints are also 0-1 and like New England didn’t play particularly well on Monday Night. Now with a short week, they return home to face a Patriots team that is looking to rebound in Week 2.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 17 at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nance will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The Patriots (0-1) lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27 giving up 21 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. The defense struggled and gave up the most points and yards ever allowed by a Bill Belichick coached Patriots team.

The Saints (0-1) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 29-19. The offensive line struggled to protect Drew Brees and the defense gave up big plays on third down and had communication issues in the secondary. Not exactly unheard of on Week 1 with a young defense.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Saints have met thirteen times in their history dating back to 1972 with the Patriots holding a 9-4 advantage including 4-1 in New Orleans. The last meeting was in Foxboro in 2013 when Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins with a game winning touchdown with less than a few seconds left on the clock to pull it out 30-27.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Saints Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game is still looking to get untracked but did have a bit of success running the ball last week. Although stopped twice on 4th and 1 attempts, Mike Gillislee scored on three short yardage touchdown runs from 2,2, and 1 yard out.

The Saints did a pretty good job of stuffing the run last week against Minnesota holding Adrian Peterson and Co. in check. Cameron Jordan is their best pass rusher and a very good run defender.

Look for the Patriots to spread them out and run Rex Burkhead in between the tackles this week. I expect to see him get plenty of work in the passing game as well. Gillislee will be the designated goal line/short yardage back.

Patriots WRs vs Saints Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game was very lackluster last week, Tom Brady completed only 16-36 for 267 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Patriots were trying to stretch the field last week going deep vertically much more than they’re accustomed to. They have to get back to stretching the field horizontally this week.

The Saints have a young and talented secondary but they’re not ready yet. They had multiple breakdowns and communication issues in Week 1. They also struggle to cover the tight ends which should be a big matchup nightmare for them this week.

I’m looking for Brady to get the tight ends involved early and often this week. Even with an injury depleted wide receiver corps, Brady still has plenty of weapons to go to. Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen should be primary targets early in this one. Look for Josh McDaniels to get the running backs more involved in the passing game this week. As long as the offensive line gives Brady time to throw, he should find plenty of space to work in this week.

Next up the New Orleans offense:

Saints RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New Orleans

The Saints barely used Mark Ingram who rushed for over 1000 yards last year. And neither was Adrian Peterson who they signed this spring as they went with rookie Alvin Kamara who played well And after Peterson yelled at head coach Sean Payton late in the first half of his first game as a Saint, his time there may be short.

The Patriots played in a dime for most of the game last week with Jordan Richards as a linebacker and were gashed by the run. They allowed 185 yards and 6.9 yards per run. This week’s game should see them change that up quite a bit as that strategy plain didn’t work. Look for the Patriots to be much better against the run this week.

Saints WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New Orleans

Drew Brees struggled in the opener because of issues with his offensive line. But he has a very good wide receiver in Michael Thomas and a burner in Ted Ginn as well as TE Coby Fleener. If Brees gets time to throw, he can pick apart any defense.

The Patriots were gashed in the passing game as well, this secondary is much too talented for that. Look for the Patriots to go to the Big Nickel this week, with Pat Chung as the extra linebacker. Harvey Langi should see some action this week. The key will be the pass rush against a beat up New Orleans offensive line. Look for Trey Flowers to have a nice game this week putting pressure on Brees.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots special teams lost their punt returner when Danny Amendola went down with a concussion. That’s three punt returners and counting that have been lost so far this season. The coverage units and kicking game were solid last week. The kickoff return team was stuck in neutral.

Bill Belichick raved this week about Thomas Morstead this week, (he loves his punters) and he’s one of the better ones in the league. Their kicking game with Wil Lutz had a solid week, but the Saints allowed five kicks to be blocked last year. Look for the Patriots to try to get one this week.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be an entertaining one as two of the best quarterbacks in the league get together. Both have enormous respect for one another and both are ultra competitive who leave it all out on the field. The Patriots defense has some issues to work out or else Brees could have a huge day. Likewise, the Patriots offense, even with banged up WRs should have their way with this young defense.

This has the potential to be a shootout. But I like the Patriots to take control of this game with a much better effort defensively. It starts with the run defense and Alan Branch and Malcom Brown inside. Ditching the four-safety look this week should really help. Look for Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise to put some pressure on Brees against the younger tackles.

Offensively, if the Patriots don’t score between 30-35 points I’d be very surprised this week. A look at what Minnesota was able to do with a much less talented offense sets the bar this week. And it starts with Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had to hear the entire, “he can’t run anymore”, “he’s lost a step”, take your pick. He’s in line for a huge game this week. Brady will spread them out and find his mismatches. It may be newcomer Phillip Dorsett against nickel corner De’Vante Harris, who was picked on by the Vikings on Monday night. Look for the Patriots to rebound and play a much better game in New Orleans. Time for the fan base to come in off the ledge.

Patriots 34-24

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots 2017 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Saints

Steve Balestrieri
September 13, 2017 at 7:54 am ET

 

We are on Week 2 in the NFL and the schedule this weekend has the Patriots traveling down to New Orleans to take on the Saints. Neither team got off to the start that they wanted to kick off the season and both teams enter the week at 0-1.

The Patriots had a rare 4th quarter meltdown at home against the Chiefs and allowed 21 points in the fourth quarter to lose 42-27. The defense gave up big plays for touchdowns and the offense, despite scoring 27 points never got untracked.

The Saints went to Minnesota and dropped an ugly one as well 29-19. Drew Brees and the offense in five trips to the red zone could only manage four field goals and a touchdown. And the defense consistently gave up big plays on third down as Sam Bradford had his way with them.

Both teams will be looking to bounce back this week as teams that start the year 0-2 rarely have success in making the playoffs or reaching the Super Bowl. New Orleans, especially their offense, however, always play much better in the Super Dome.  Here are our five first impressions of the Saints before this week’s game.

Minnesota Picked on De’Vante Harris in the Opener: Week 1 is the classic overreaction week in the NFL. Just look around, the fans from 15 teams are already looking on StubHub for tickets to Super Bowl LII, while fans from 15 others are in panic mode. However, the Saints knew coming in this year that they are inexperienced at the cornerback position.

And the Vikings saw this and made it a point to pick on cornerback De’Vante Harris. The 2nd year UDFA from Texas A&M got the start and had a rough game. Minnesota QB Sam Bradford had a 100 passer rating when looking in his direction last week. Harris got caught peeking in the backfield at Bradford during a red-zone possession which allowed Stefon Diggs to get behind him for an 18-yard touchdown.

Diggs also beat him on a deep sideline pass in the second quarter that, despite pass interference by Harris was still able to pull it in. We know that the NFL is a copycat league, I’d expect Josh McDaniels to test the young corner early and often this week.

Young Linebackers Make A Good First Impression: The Saints have revamped their linebacking corps and the early results were encouraging. With A.J. Klein, Manti Te’o and rookie Alex Anzalone manning the Saints front seven at linebacker, they are looking for improved play this season.

Klein, who was brought over from the Carolina Panthers this spring had a very solid outing and was active making 11 tackles although he said there was plenty of room for improvement from the unit, especially on the first play of the game where the Saints had only 10 men on the field. “To know we started the season that way was just a lack of communication to start,” he said. “I think that can fall on me. I have to know who is on the field and personnel and make sure everyone is on the field. I take responsibility for that one.”

Anzalone had what coach Sean Payton called a pretty active night. The rookie from Florida had a pair of tackles and a pass defended. He broke up a pass in the end zone on the Vikings first drive that forced them to settle for a field goal.

Red Zone Offense Uncharacteristically Stalls: Last season the Saints were one of the best teams offensively in the red zone.  But on Monday night they struggled, albeit against one of the better defensive units in the NFL.

The Saints made five trips into the red zone, with four of them being inside the 10-yard line and of those four trips, they could only manage three field goals and a touchdown, that came in the final two minutes of the game when the score was basically out of reach.

Some of the play calling was curious as they didn’t target Michael Thomas in the red zone during the game. The 2nd year wide receiver caught 92 passes a year ago but on this night had just 5 catches for 45 yards.

Mark Ingram played very sparingly (only 26 snaps) and had just six carries for just 17 yards in the game. He was more effective in the passing game with five catches for 54 yards. The Saints were going mostly with rookie RB Alvin Kamara over Ingram and veteran addition Adrian Peterson.

But credit the Minnesota defense, although they sacked Drew Brees only once, they were able to bring pressure on him and he was constantly under duress.

Offensive Line Needs Work: The Saints brought in running backs Alvin Kamara and Adrian Peterson this season to bolster the already very good Mark Ingram in an attempt to make the offense more balanced and assert their will on opponents. It would also take some of the onus off of Drew Brees and the passing game. But the offensive line, which was supposed to open up the holes for the running game struggled in Week 1.

Injuries and playing the tough Minnesota defense certainly had a hand in that. Left tackle Terron Armistead was out of the lineup in Minnesota and right tackle Zach Strief left the game with an MCL sprain that may keep him out of the line up for the next few weeks. Those losses, coupled with the Vikes front seven made life difficult for the running backs to find any room to run. Kamara and Peterson managed just 18 yards a piece and Ingram gained just 17.

While the interior of the offensive line remains intact, one area that will bear close scrutiny this week will be the edges. If they can give Drew Brees time to throw and open up some holes for the talented running back trio, the Saints offense will be tough to stop. If not, then the Patriots defense will be looking to assert their own pressure.

Like the Loss of Edelman, the Saints Felt the Loss of Snead: Watching the Saints in the opener, one couldn’t help but notice that the New Orleans passing game was missing their slot receiver Willie Snead in this one. Much like the Patriots in their opener, the loss was even more keenly felt on third down.

While Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn give them production and speed on the outside and TE Coby Fleener is a good, productive pass receiver, having that go-to slot receiver in the middle of the field is always a plus and the Saints could have used Snead who is serving a three game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse rules.

It will be interesting to see if the Saints use Austin Carr this week against his former team. The Patriots signed the UDFA wide receiver this spring and he had a very solid training camp and preseason. He was cut as the team whittled down the 53-man roster and the Saints scooped him up.

Check back with us later this week as we’ll have a detailed breakdown of the key matchups between the Patriots and Saints as we try to piece together who wins and why.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

NFL Week 2 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats 6.5 point favorites at Saints

John Morgan
September 8, 2017 at 8:30 pm ET

On Tuesday the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published their NFL Regular Season Week 2 Advanced Betting Lines. Also known as Look-Ahead or Early Lines, these odds are released prior to any of the previous games – including Thursday night’s game between the Patriots and Chiefs. These Early Advanced Lines can and will differ substantially from odds posted by Vegas and offshore accounts by the time these games kick off next week. It will be interesting to see how the professional handicappers that set these lines react to the Pats loss to KC when the Week Two odds are initially set next week.

 

The Patriots at New Orleans looms to be the most analyzed game in the NFL heading into week two. It features two potent offenses led by a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. The Pats loss to the Chiefs will result in even more scrutiny, as New England strives to avoid an 0-2 start to the 2017 season. Last time these two met it was an incredible game. The Saints were up 27-23 with just over a minute to go, and the Patriots were out of timeouts. Brady led the Patriots on a 70-yard scoring drive, converting on 4th down and then connecting on a 17-yard touchdown pass to undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with only five seconds remaining.

 

 

The last time these two met in The Big Easy it was a different story. New Orleans dominated both sides of the ball on a Monday night game and crushed New England, 38-17. With that victory the Saints improved to 11-0; they would go on to defeat the Colts in Super Bowl 44 that post-season.

 

Another game well worth watching will be played on Sunday night, with Green Bay at Atlanta. This is a rematch of last season’s NFC championship game, featuring a marketing executive’s dream: Matt Ryan an Aaron Rodgers. The two clubs are among the favorites (along with Seattle) to represent the NFC in next February’s Super Bowl. Clear your calendar; this should be one of, if not the best game of the 2017 season.

Thursday Sept 14 at 8:25 pm ET on NFLN
Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)

Sunday Sept 17 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-7)
Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers (-8)
Tennessee Titans (-2½) at Jacksonville Jaguars
New England Patriots (-6½) at New Orleans Saints

Sunday Sept 17 at 1:00 pm ET on Fox
Arizona Cardinals (-3½) at Indianapolis Colts
Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs (-4)
Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7)
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6½)

Sunday Sept 17 at 4:05 pm ET on CBS
Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers (-4)
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders (-15½)

Sunday Sept 17 at 4:25 pm ET on Fox
Dallas Cowboys (-1½) at Denver Broncos
Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams (PK)
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-11½)

Sunday Sept 17 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons (-3)

Monday Sept 18 at 8:30 pm ET on espn
Detroit Lions at New York Giants (-6)

 

Early Week 2 Best Bets:
Bucs (-6½) vs Bears
Skins (pk) at Rams
Texans (+3) at Bengals
Seahawks (-11½) vs Niners

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only.

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

 

Patriots By the Numbers, Fun Facts Before the Cardinals Kickoff

Steve Balestrieri
September 10, 2016 at 8:06 am ET

The Patriots will open the 2016 NFL season on the road in Phoenix against the Cardinals on Sunday Night Football. The team traveled a day early on Friday and are putting their final prep for the contest on Saturday.

So with the wait before the game on Sunday night, here are some interesting numbers to pore over.

0: Games started by Jimmy Garoppolo, Sunday will be his first

1: Wins by the Patriots over NFC opponents on Opening Weekend. Record is 1-3

4: Super Bowl wins by HC Bill Belichick, tied for most with Chuck Noll

4: Number of times Tom Brady has led the NFL in TD passes. Tied with Len Dawson, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Johnny Unitas, and Steve Young

5: Number of consecutive Conference Title games by NE, tied with Oakland (73-77)

7: Number of consecutive Division Titles by NE, tied with Rams (73-79)

7: Number of consecutive years in the playoffs, only five teams have reached 8 in a row

13: Number of Division Titles by Belichick, tied with Tom Landry, and Don Shula

13: Number of consecutive 10-win seasons by NE

15: Consecutive winning seasons by NE, can tie SF, Dallas for most since 1970 merger

17: Number of seasons by Tom Brady, most in team history passing Steve Grogan

23: Post-season wins by Bill Belichick, most in NFL history. Landry (20) is second.

29: Consecutive games with a sack by NE the longest current streak in the NFL

31: Wins on opening day by the Patriots, overall record of 31-25

38: Number of playoff games played by the Patriots since Robert Kraft bought the team. Most in the NFL, Green Bay is second with 33.

38: Wins by the Pats since 2001 in games decided by 3 points or fewer. Top winning percentage in the NFL with .717 (38-15) during that time.

44: Number of wins (44-5) since 2008 when the Patriots don’t turn over the ball

45: Wins by the Patriots over NFC opponents since 2002, NFL best record of 45-11

55: Road wins since 2006, Pats road record of 55-25 best in the NFL

64: TD passes to Gronk from Tom Brady, second most in NFL history between a QB and TE. Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates lead with 77

66: Career touchdowns by Rob Gronkowski, needs three to pass Stanley Morgan (68) for most in Patriots history.

71: Divisional wins by NE since 2001 (71-21), most in the NFL. Indianapolis (67) is 2nd

81: Number of consecutive victories at home by NE when leading at halftime

83: Road wins by NE since 2000, tops in the NFL, Philadelphia is 2nd with 78

134: Pats record of 134-42 is the best in the NFL the last decade with a winning pct of .761. Indy next with 118 wins (118-58), winning pct of .658

137: Yards rushed by Tony Collins on 21 carries against Baltimore in 1982 opener

183: Yards receiving by Randy Moss on 9 catches against the Jets in 2007 opener

194: Wins by Tom Brady combined regular/post season. Needs 7 to pass Manning (200), Favre (199) for most career wins by a QB

428: Career TD passes by Tom Brady, tied with Drew Brees for 3rd all-time in the NFL

517: Yards thrown by Tom Brady on 32 completions vs Miami in 2011 opener

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Saints Joint Practice Observations 8-9

Steve Balestrieri
August 9, 2016 at 4:43 pm ET

Saints and Pats Get In Good Joint Workout Tuesday

The Patriots and Saints had a good, spirited joint practice session on Tuesday morning under hot, sunny skies at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots, however, weren’t at their best offensively and were rather sloppy with dropped passes across the board by multiple players.

Earlier in the morning prior to the workout, Bill Belichick stated that the team was excited for Sean Payton and the Saints to be here. He said the Pats have a great relationship with Payton and the Saints. Something Payton reiterated later after practice was over.

Many of the Patriots coaches, including Bill Belichick, wore Nate Ebner’s rugby jersey in  a nice show of support during practice. The US National Rugby team plays its first match later tonight.

Notable absences: Nate Solder who’s been practicing every day was out. Sebastian Vollmer, Dion Lewis, Jonathan Cooper, Bryce Williams, Danny Amendola and Nate Ebner (Olympics), were also not spotted.

But more importantly, Julian Edelman left practice after clutching his left leg during 1-on-1 drills. He didn’t return, although the NFL Network stated that his injury “wasn’t serious”.  But he could be seen throwing his helmet in frustration. Rob Ninkovich left early with what is being characterized as a “triceps” injury. He’s slated to have an MRI tomorrow.

Not a Banner day for the offense: The Pats offense has had better days and it begins with Jimmy Garoppolo. The Pats QB suffered thru his third straight session of making poor decisions with the ball. He had some shaky moments in there, but those things are to be expected and is the reason they hold practice.

Photo-Jimmy-Garoppolo-and-Tom-Brady-m6erN-250x250He was also victimized by a series of drops, and the Patriots receivers across the board were having issues holding onto the football.

With Solder and Vollmer out, the top offensive line consisted of LaAdrian Waddle at LT, Joe Thuney at LG, David Andrews at C, Josh Kline at RG and Marcus Cannon at RT.

After going thru warmups and a period of positional drills, the teams got together about 40 minutes into practice with the WRs and DBs going against one another.  The highlight of this segment was Julian Edelman putting an absolute filthy move on safety Vonn Bell. Edelman ran straight up the seam and faked to his right which Bell bit on and Edelman cut left leaving Bell far in his wake.

Brady led off the segment at QB and was followed by Garoppolo.  Meanwhile on the other side, Drew Brees was hooking up with WR Brandin Cooks who was battling hard with CB Malcolm Butler. Cooks was winning the majority of the battles but Butler did have a really nice pass breakup in the end zone. Logan Ryan had a nice pass breakup in the end zone.

7-7: This was followed by 7-on-7 drills with the Patriots offense on one field and the Saints on the other. Once again Brady took the initial reps followed by Garoppolo. Brady’s first pass, a screen to James White over the middle was nearly picked off by linebacker Stephone Anthony. Brady hit Devin Lucien deep in the end zone. He also connected with Chris Hogan, Nate Washington, and Clay Harbor.

11-on-11s Still Sloppy: Next came the 11-on-11s. Brady’s first pass was picked off this time, by Sheldon Rankins on a screen to White. He hit on only two of his first five passes. Garoppolo came on and hit  Rob Gronkowski down the seam. Gronk was wide open but dropped the ball, one of his three drops on the day.

Brees was doing a lot of check-downs to the backs Mark Ingram, Marcus Murphy and C.J. Spiller in his early work. Asked later if that was planned Saints coach Payton said no, that the Patriots were doing a great job of disrupting routes at the line of scrimmage.

Later when Luke McCown came on for Brees, he was picked off by Duron Harmon. Not to be outdone, the Saints De’Vante Harris picked off Garoppolo during the two-minute drill. Jimmy G. was trying to hit Aaron Dobson on a crossing route and it was a pass he’d probably like to have back.

Both Brady and Garoppolo suffered what would have been a couple of sacks in the goal line sequence and the two-minute drill. For the Patriots defense, Shea McClellin, Jamie Collins, and Trey Flowers who had arguably his best practice were bringing pressure from the edge. Flowers and Dont’a Hightower each got QB pressure/sacks twice.

While the focus in the secondary was on the Cooks, Butler matchup, Cyrus Jones had a solid day. He recorded passes broken up in both individual 1-on-1 drills and during the 11s. Jones was also solid in the kick return game, fielding all of his punts cleanly and having a good return straight up the middle on one play, displaying good vision and a nice cut.

Late in practice, the third QBs, Jacoby Brissett and Garrett Grayson each got to take some extended reps with the third team offenses. The teams return to action on Wednesday morning with the scheduled start time for practice being 9:15 a.m.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

 

Patriots – Saints Joint Practices Help Competition, Evaluation

Steve Balestrieri
August 8, 2016 at 11:00 am ET

Coaching Staffs Communicate and Have Respect for one another

The Patriots will conduct joint practices with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 9-10 prior to their first preseason game on Thursday night.

This will mark the fourth time that the Patriots and Saints will conduct joint practices, the third time in Foxboro. The Saints visited here back in 2010 and 2012 and the Patriots visited the New Orleans training camp facility in White Sulphur Springs, WV a year ago.

It is interesting that in the constantly changing landscape of the NFL that the Patriots and Saints both have the same head coach/quarterback combination as they did back in the first joint practice in 2010.

Sean Payton and Drew Brees remain with the Saints while Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are still working their magic in New England. The two sides are deep with respect for one another, a year Belichick spoke about the respect he has for Payton and the Saints staff.

2012-Patriots-Saints-Joint-Practice-150x150 “I have all the respect in the world for the Saints, their entire organization, Sean, the way they do things,” Belichick said. “We’ve got a great working relationship with the Saints, Sean and his staff. From a coaching standpoint, we both feel like we get done things that are beneficial to our teams. Players work hard, but they do it in the right way.”

Drew Brees and Brady have long maintained a cordial relationship during these practices and have a mutual respect for one another. “I’m a big fan of Tom Brady,” Brees said. “As a player and I really enjoy being around him as a person.”

Unfamiliar Opponent and Chance for Added Competition: The Patriots traditionally under Belichick have loved these joint practices and they attempt to do a couple each season. And they work for the simplest of reasons. One is that after facing their teammates in training camp for a while now, this will give them the opportunity to face off against an unfamiliar opponent and changes things up a bit.

Going against another team always stokes the competitive fires in players and for those players on the bubble at the back end of the roster, it gives them extra reps against an opponent that may help them win a roster spot. Where  in a preseason game a certain player may only get a couple of snaps to show what he can do, in the joint practices they’ll get  more opportunities to shine.

The coaches also get to work on game specific situational football scenarios that they have recently installed into the offense/defense. It takes good communication between the head coaches and there has to be a level of trust there. Belichick spoke about that in his press conference on Sunday.

2012-Camp-Tom-Brady-Saints-150x150“Yeah, somebody you can work with, that’s the number one thing. That’s above all else. We have a great relationship with the Saints, with Sean [Payton] and his staff, the organization,” Belichick said. “It’s always worked out well the times we’ve done it with them, so if we have an opportunity to do it with them we try to take advantage of it. It’s been really good. They’re great to work with.”

“I think we know what we want to try and do. We’ll talk about it when they get here. We’ll kind of go over it one more time. We’ve still got practices that are important to us before we get to that, but we want to be organized with them. I think we are and we’ll just kind of fine-tune that when they get here, but we’re good to go.”

And a final advantage to these practices is that you can always find a player that may not be a fit for the opponent that may fulfill a role with your team. That allows the coaches to evaluate the player and see more of him in a close, working situation.

The Patriots saw that with the Saints Akiem Hicks who didn’t have a role in their defensive rebuild a year ago but was traded to the Patriots and played very well for the team in 2015. The Patriots also got to see ST/LB Ramon Humber last season, who they signed as a free agent this spring.

But the list is long, others the Pats practiced against and then brought in includes but isn’t limited to, Frank Kearse, E.J. Biggers, Jonathan Casillas, and Aqib Talib.

So the Patriots will be installing some new wrinkles in the playbook and will be using them against the Saints in the next few days. Belichick told the media, that they won’t be installing anything new per se, that they went over these things in the spring and now they’ll evaluate the players on how well they produce.

“Well, we still have things we need to install. We still have a lot of situation work we need to cover,” he said. “I know we’ll be doing some of those things against New Orleans, so it’ll be good to have already put it in, to have run it, and then run it against them, rather than go out there and have that be the first time. A lot of times there is some ironing out to do. We’ll try to get some of that out of the way the first time or two and then try to run it competitively.

If you’re planning on heading down to training camp for the two joint practices against the Saints, be advised plan on arriving early. Those workouts are traditionally very crowded and as always, it is first-come, first served. Both practices are scheduled to run from 9:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. daily. But check with Patriots.com for any updates.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Is the NFL’s Pendulum Swinging Back to the Running Game?

Steve Balestrieri
February 12, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The NFL is a passing league and it is driven by the quarterbacks. With the plethora of talented passers and athletic receivers in the league, it has led to an explosion of passing yards, touchdowns and offenses that love to spread out defenses and find mismatches.

That has led to smaller, faster and more athletic defenses that have to try to keep up with these offenses. Denver’s defense is a prime example, a very athletic, blistering fast unit that uses speed to overwhelm their opponents.

But the NFL is always evolving and the league is trending back to being more run based but at a bare minimum, it is going to be much more balanced in terms of offense. A quick look at the final eight teams that rounded out the NFL’s season from the Divisional Round thru the Super Bowl shows that for the most part,  teams that ran the ball well were the ones standing in the end.

All four of the teams from the NFC were in the top 12 of rushing. Carolina was the #2 rushing team in the NFL averaging 142.6 yards per game. Seattle was the #3 rushing team, even without Marshawn Lynch down the stretch averaging 141.8. Arizona came in 8th with 119.8 yards per game and Green Bay rounded out the NFC at #12 with 115.6 yards per game.

Over in the AFC, Kansas City was the #6 rushing team in the NFL averaging 127.8 yards per game. Pittsburgh came in 16th with 107.8 yards per game. But they lost LeVeon Bell after only six games in 2015 with him serving the first two games of the season on a suspension and then him going down with a season ending injury, tearing an MCL in Week 8.

Denver was right behind Pittsburgh in 17th place in the league averaging 107.4 yards per game. But that number needs to be looked at closer. After Peyton Manning was sat down, and Brock Osweiler took over, Gary Kubiak finally installed the running game as he envisioned it with the QB under center. The results were startling. In the last seven games of the season, Denver averaged 134.9 yards per game, which would have put them right around 5th/6th place over the course of a season.

Only the New England Patriots were the anomaly in the final eight, rushing for a paltry 87.8 yards per game, 30th in the NFL. Their success had more to do with the ability of Tom Brady than anything else and why they made it the conference championship.

It also isn’t surprising that the league’s top five scoring teams (Car, AZ, NE, Sea, Pitts) are also on this list, again only the Patriots are the wildcard with the vast onus being on the passing game. Kansas City finished with the 9th top scoring team in the league.

Does this mean that the NFL is going back to the 4 yards and a cloud of dust days? Hardly, as long as QBs like Brady, Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger et al. are under center teams are going to throw the ball and do so very well.

But to combat the fast nickel and dime defenses that teams are playing more and more with five and six defensive backs on the field, teams are going back to more of balanced run based approach. It keeps the downs and distances manageable and when facing third and short, teams that run effectively have the option of mixing things up and keeping the chains moving.

The NFL is a copycat league, with the success of both Denver and Carolina having very good running attacks and fast, athletic defenses, look for the other teams in the league trying to duplicate their success. The age of the mobile, big-armed QBs are here and now the defenses will have to adjust accordingly again.

Bill Belichick likes to stay a step ahead of the trends in the game, when the Patriots play their nickel and dime defenses, they frequently do so with extra safeties instead of cornerbacks. Part of the reason is in the AFC East, they play the Bills and Jets, two teams that run the ball extremely well.

Safeties who take the place of linebackers in the big nickel defense have to be able to stuff the run and still be able to cover tight ends and running backs and the occasional slot receiver. Big safeties who can stuff the run and cover will become increasingly sought after as teams play more in their sub-packages than in their base defenses.

What does this mean for New England? Well one last look at the coach’s film from the AFC Championship Game shows that at a bare minimum, they’re going to need a complimentary running game if they want to get back to the big game.

They can’t rely on Tom Brady chucking the ball 80 percent of the time. Being one-dimensional against a very good defense like Denver’s hurt them twice in 2015. Brady took a beating in both games. With him turning 39 this season, they can’t afford to have him going down because the defense is just pinning their ears back.

So while the Patriots haven’t valued the running back position in recent years, perhaps this is a good time, to reverse that trend a bit and spend the money and/or draft picks to get themselves a higher tier running back. They’ve proven they can throw it with the best of teams, but with a viable running game, not only will it make the passing game even more effective, it will limit the abuse your 39-year old QB has to take.

There are some intriguing names out there both in free agency and the draft, several that can be had in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds. The league is trending towards having better rushing attacks again. The Pats are already well equipped to stop those. Now they need to get to work on getting one of their own.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints – preview, prediction and pick against the spread

John Morgan
October 15, 2015 at 9:46 am ET

The Atlanta Falcons look to advance to 6-0 in Thursday night’s game at division rival New Orleans. The first game of NFL week six kicks off at 8:25 pm eastern time and is televised on CBS (and NFLN). The Falcons are favored by 3½ points and the point total is listed at 51½ at most venues.

 

Injuries – New Orleans (1-4) need this game to turn their season around, but could be without the services of three starters on offense. LG Tim Lelito is out with a shoulder injury, LT Terron Armstead is doubtful due to a knee injury suffered two weeks ago, and WR Marques Colston is doubtful with a bad shoulder. Atlanta will be without two starters: OLB Justin Durant (elbow) and C Mike Person (ankle), but WR Julio Jones (probable; toe, hamstring) is expected to play.

 

Atlanta is looking to defeat the Saints on the road in consecutive games for the first time in 13 years. The Falcons won back-to-back games in New Orleans in 2001-02, but have been 3-9 in the Big Easy since then. Atlanta is the first team in NFL history to start 5-0 despite trailing in the 4th quarter in four of those games. New Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn spent nearly twenty years as a defensive line coach prior to becoming Seattle’s defensive coordinator for two years, when the Seahawks were the NFL’s best defense and won the Super Bowl. While it is still a work in progress, Atlanta’s defense has noticeably improved from the porous sieve that they were the last couple of years. The Falcon offensive line suffered through more than their share of injuries last year; that group being healthy has led to a much improved offense, especially running the ball. RB Devonta Freeman leads the NFL with eight rushing touchdowns and is second with 405 yards rushing. Despite a rough game last week against Washington, QB Matt Ryan is still completing 65% of his passes and averaging 291 passing yards per game. WR Julio Jones leads the league with 190 yards after the catch and is second overall with 545 yards receiving (109 yards per game).

 

New Orleans has been in a tough spot ever since the penalties imposed in the bountygate case; the loss of those draft picks plus having to pick late in the draft year after year have taken their toll. However, their biggest problem this year is that the strategy of pushing salaries into future years has caught up with them and placed them in salary cap jail. The Saints have a whopping $31.8 million in dead money on their salary cap, with a combined $25.5 million devoted to four players that are no longer on their roster: TE Jimmy Graham, LG Ben Grubbs, LB Junior Galette and LB Curtis Lofton. The end result is a woeful defense that is allowing and NFL-third worst 28.6 points per game, ranks last at 409 yards allowed per game, is 30th against the run (136 yards per game), and is 32nd with 6.5 yards allowed per play.

 

Prediction: In past seasons I would not even consider going against the Saints at home, but that home field advantage has completely dissipated. While I am still skeptical about Atlanta – I think they are still a year away, until some more talent can be assembled on defense – the Saints’ ship is sadly sinking quickly. The Falcons should be able to win this game easily, without having to resort to another late-game comeback.

 

Pick: Falcons 34, Saints 20

Falcons -3½ (three units); over 51½; Atlanta -180 (two units)