The holiday weekend is over as is the Patriots' bye week, and fans in New England will now get to see the team begin their preparations for the Carolina Panthers as they start getting set for Monday Night Football. Carolina is currently 6-3 and coming off of a big win over the San Francisco 49ers, beating them 10-9 on Sunday in their own stadium.
Their defense is tough, and the 49ers found themselves completely shut down on Sunday after the Panthers held them to just 151 yards of total offense, sacking quarterback Colin Kaepernick six times while also holding them to just 2-of-13 on third down. Prior to the Patriots' win over Pittsburgh a little over a week ago, those had been similar numbers that Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense had put up at times in recent weeks.
Fortunately, that wasn't the case during New England's last outing two weeks ago against the Steelers. In that game Brady and the Patriots put up 432 yards of total offense and finished 7-of-12 on 3rd down, showing signs that hopefully things are finally beginning to click. Hopefully they continue to take further steps forward against what should be a very tough NFC opponent.
Here are a few additional notes from this morning:
1) Brady looking forward to the Monday night stage - Tom Brady loves playing in big games, and coming off of a bye week he and the Patriots will resume their season on the national stage down in Carolina. The veteran appeared on WEEI on Tuesday morning, and said that while he enjoyed the week off, he's excited to get back to work.
"There's nothing better than playing on 'Monday Night Football' and playing against one of the best teams in the NFC," said Brady via Mike Riess of ESPN Boston. "That's what it's all about for me. It's time to get back to work. It's football season and it's time for us to go out and see what we're made of in the second half of the year."
Brady also said in the interview that he enjoyed the week off, but he felt like "a fish out of water" watching other teams play and not being out there himself.
"I was talking to my wife two days ago and said 'I just love football.' When it's Sunday and everyone else is playing and you're not, you're a fish out of water," said Brady. "You're watching [and] if I'm not around a TV I'm updating my phone every five minutes to see what's going on with every score. It's probably more anxious when you're not playing because you're watching games and thinking about the outcomes and watching how teams are doing. That's just the life of a football player."
2) Coming off of a bye, the Patriots' record is pretty good - When the Patriots have a week off they tend to play pretty well when they do get back to work, having amassed a 10-3 record during the Bill Belichick era. Their last loss was back in 2011 on the road against the Steelers where Ben Roethlisberger went out and had a monster game, finishing with 365 yards passing while completing passes to nine different receivers. Brady had a decent day, finishing 24-of-35 for 198 yards and two touchdowns, but it was a safety in the closing seconds of the game by the Patriots that sealed the game for Pittsburgh.
Field Yates of ESPN Boston points out that this is only the second time during the Belichick era that he's had 15 days to prepare for an opponent during the regular season, with the last time coming back in 2001 against, oddly enough, Carolina. In that game they went out and defeated the Panthers 38-6, so hopefully this year's contest yields similar results.
3) Things don't sound promising regarding DT Armstead - There has been a lot of intrigue surrounding defensive tackle Armond Armstead, and it's grown even further thanks to injuries up front that have claimed the likes of Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly this season. Armstead was thought to be a potential addition in the coming weeks after being placed on the reserve/non-football illness list after having surgery for an infection prior to the start of training camp. However, Bill Belichick didn't sound optimistic about Armstead's future, saying it's looking "less likely" that he'll be back by the week 11 deadline. That's bad news for a group that's dangerously thin at that position and could have used the depth, and considering he racked up six sacks and 43 tackles last season for the Toronto Argonauts, there were many who felt this could have been a great opportunity for him. Unfortunately unless something changes, it's starting to look like we may not find get to see him until next season.
4) Gronk being...well...Gronk - Unfortunately - Rob Gronkowski spent Sunday night with fans during a Q&A event at Bar Louie Restaurant, and unfortunately made some questionable comments after openly mocking an Asian fan, calling him "Leslie Chow" (the character from the Hangover movies) and joking about fried rice. TMZ has the video, and as harmless as he may have thought it was, it's unfortunately garnered some attention this morning from various media outlets. There's just something about him and the term "good judgement" that don't seem tend to collide in the same sentence, so add this to the list of ridiculous things he's done/said so far during his career.
5) McCourty Makes Impact off the Field - A great story this morning in the Providence Journal on Devin McCourty, who spent Monday night posing for pictures and signing autographs as the featured guest as part of the Veterans Day program, "Operation Holiday Cheer", designed to honor local soldiers. McCourty appreciates the sacrifices military personnel and their familes make, saying he's lived through it and knows what they go through.
"My older brother and my father both served, so it's something that's dear to my heart," McCourty said via the newspaper. "I think that it's great when you can do things to help those that are truly close to you. You can give your time and effort."
A lot of people may not be aware of this, but McCourty tends to be one of the more active players in the community off the field on the team's off days, with stories appearing periodically regarding charity events, etc. that he's involved in. Needless to say he's established himself as one of the better safeties in the league, and it's great to see the impact he's making in the lives of people here in New England with his efforts outside the gridiron.
SOME ADDITIONAL STATS & INFORMATION FOR THIS MORNING:
1) Tom Brady currently has 3,992 career completions, with just eight more to go before he becomes the sixth NFL Player to ever reach 4,000 completions.
2) Stephen Gostkowski currently has nine field goals of 40 or more yards so far this season, and needs just three more of that yardage or greater to set the team record for most 40-yard field goals in a single season. Adam Vinatieri had 11 from that distance in 2004 and 1998, and Gostkowski currently has amassed that total in 2013. He's also connected on 18 straight field goals, five shy of Vinatieri's team record streak of 23.
3) Rob Gronkowski currently has 39 career touchdowns and is tied with Randy moss for the most touchdown receptions from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Gronkowski's next scoring grab will give him 40, setting the new milestone. He's also accomplished that feat in just 46 career games, and he has the chance to become the fastest tight end to 40 TD receptions, a mark currently held by Antonio Gates who did it in 71 contests.
4) Stevan Ridley currently has 13 20-yard runs and needs one more to have the most for the Patriots since 2000. He's currently tied at 13 with Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon.
5) Chandler Jones currently leads the team with 8.5 sacks, and needs to register 1.5 more for to give the team their 15th 10-sack season.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
In early playoff picture, Patriots are in good shape - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young has a good read this morning on the fact that at 7-2, the Patriots have put themselves in a good position at another potential playoff run.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick never stops evaluating - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young files her notebook this morning, which leads off with some interesting comments from Belichick on some of the things the coaching staff evaluates over the bye week.
Patriots' 5 questions coming out of the bye - Jeff Howe - Howe has five questions coming off the bye week, and wonders what's in store for Shane Vereen as he's eligible to return this week against Carolina.
Sweet Carolina buzz for Panthers - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook for this morning which leads off with some thoughts from Belichick on this week's upcoming match-up against the Panthers.
Tom Brady: Nothing better than MNF - Mike Reiss - Reiss has notes from Brady's interview with WEEI, with the veteran quarterback looking forward to playing on Monday night football.
Patriots after bye under Belichick - Field Yates - Yates takes a look at New England's history coming off of a bye week under Bill Belichick and lists out their opponents and their records during that span.
Aqib Talib a singular talent - Mike Reiss - Reiss has quotes from Bill Belichick talking about Talib, who he equated to former Patriots cornerback Ty Law.
Bill Belichick goes deep on hazing talk - Mike Reiss - Reiss has a good entry with comments from Belichick regarding what's going on down in Miami in terms of the hazing issue between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.
Josh McDaniels on filling No. 4 WR void - Mike Reiss - After releasing Austin Collie last Tuesday following a knee injury, Reiss has comments from Josh McDaniels about how New England plans to fill that void.
Bye-week breakdown: Defensive backs - Christopher Price - Price has another positional breakdown this morning, this time looking at the defensive backs and feels Aqib Talib deserved to be put in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year.
Outdoors: Affordable Remingtons get their shots at Matt Light Celebrity Shootout - Mark Blazis - Blazis has a column this morning on former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light and the work he's doing for kids after raising $600,000 during his recent event.
Patriots Journal: On off day, McCourty goes the extra yard - Paul Kenyon - Kenyon has a good article this morning on Devin McCourty, who spent his off day on Monday making fans happy as a featured guest as part of the Veterans Day program, "Operation Holiday Cheer."