There's been a lot of discussion about the Patriots offense and how they've played so far this season, but looking a little closer it's hard to not see that Tom Brady has had to make a difficult transition against one of the tougher groups of defenses this season.
Both of their losses have come against top 10 defenses, and overall they've had to do battle with four of their seven opponents so far (they've played the Jets twice) who are in the top half of the league in that category. It's obviously been a good test for some of the rookies who are having to raise their game as they adjust to much faster competition in the NFL, and it has obviously posted a challenge for Brady, who has had some pretty tight windows to deliver the football so far this season.
Looking back at the first seven opponents, it's been a formidable group and taking look at the overall defensive rankings it's no surprise that the Patriots offense has sputtered early on through the first half of the year to this point:
Buffalo Bills: 26th
New York Jets: 6th
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 14th
Atlanta Falcons: 22nd
Cincinnati Bengals: 8th
New Orleans Saints: 12th
Miami Dolphins: 21st
It's not about to get any easier. New England is about to face four teams ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in total defense, and five total that are in the upper half of the league. The Dolphins are a team that also played well, and should they continue to improve will likely be a little tougher next time around and that game is also a road game in Miami.
Here's a look at the teams who are still left:
Pittsburgh Steelers: 4th
at Carolina Panthers: 3rd
Denver Broncos: 24th
at Houston Texans: 1st
Cleveland Browns: 7th
at Miami Dolphins (2nd Meeting)
at Baltimore Ravens: 16th
Buffalo Bills (2nd Meeting)
Fortunately we've seen some growth in recent weeks, although on paper it's hard to see. As mentioned yesterday New England did a better job keeping themselves in manageable situations offensively Sunday and also got some significant production from their ground game. It seems like they're still figuring out how to re-work the pieces of the puzzle now that Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski are both back healthy, and they'll need to do a little better job of hopefully getting more guys involved offensively than they did Sunday against Miami early on.
It's been their defense that continues to carry them, with New England themselves currently ranked 19th in the league in that category. They shot up the charts after Sunday's six sack performance to improve their sack total to 24 on the season, tying them with the Saints for 8th in that category. That's pretty impressive considering they finished last season with 37, so they're currently on pace for 48 at the rate they're going. That's only four off of last year's league leading 52 that both the Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams finished with.
There's still plenty of football left to be played and we've certainly seen a lot of growth and changes since week one. Hopefully the overall picture continues to look a little brighter in the weeks to come, because they're certainly going to be tested in the final half of the season.
STEELERS PRETTY WEAK ON THE GROUND:
The days of Jerome Bettis are long gone for Pittsburgh, who through the first seven games of this season currently have just 481 yards rushing, which according to SteelersDepot.com is the worst start over that span the team has ever had. Pittsburgh managed just 35 on Sunday in their loss to the Oakland Raiders, and the website writes that the Steelers need at least 134 this weekend against New England to move ahead of their current pace. The Patriots are currently ranked 9th in the league against the run, giving up an average of 101.9 yards per game and are coming off a performance where they allowed 156 in Sunday's win over Miami.
INJURY COST VOLLMER MORE THAN HIS SEASON:
One additional note from this morning by the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe regarding Sebastian Vollmer's injury. According to Howe, the injury unfortunately has substantial financial implications, which stems from the four-year, $27 million contract the veteran signed this offseason.
According to Howe the deal contained $9.25 million in performance-based incentives, which now that he's likely lost for the season will probably cost him around $2 million. Howe also points out that Vollmer will lose $250,000 for not making the Pro Bowl, $750,000 for falling short of 90 percent of the total team snaps, and an extra $1 million due in the next league year for playing 80 percent of the snaps.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Stats show Patriots defense better, offense struggling - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young has some interesting numbers looking at both sides of the football for the Patriots.
Patriots' Sebastian Vollmer has leg surgery - Shalise Manza Young & Ben Volin - The Boston Globe reports that Vollmer underwent surgery yesterday to repair a broken bone in his lower right leg, citing a league source.
Tom Brady keeping hand issue under wraps - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young files her notebook for this morning and writes that Brady once again downplayed his hand injury and said he feels "great".
Scouting the Pittsburgh Steelers - Erik Frenz - Frenz has a good entry this morning taking a closer look at the Steelers, along with some interesting stats and notes.
No joy of sacks: Sebastian Vollmer injury won't ease Tom Brady's pain - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that with Tom Brady already on pace for a career high in sacks, losing Vollmer certainly won't help there.
Patriots blitz gives Dolphins fits - Jeff Howe - Howe looks at the job New England did blitzing against Miami, which obviously caused the Dolphins problems in the second half on Sunday.
Patriots Report Card: Second-half surge earns high marks - Karen Guregian - Guregian files her report card for this week, and writes that despite the fact the Dolphins had the Patriots exactly where they wanted them, something changed and the Patriots completely shut them down in the second half.
Pats-Dolphins: Five takeaways from the game - Jeff Howe - One day removed from the Patriots' win, Howe offers up some thoughts from Sunday's game.
Getting to know the Pittsburgh Steelers - Field Yates - Yates also has a good look at the Steelers this morning, who he writes after Sunday's loss to Oakland some wonder if it's too late for them to turn the season around.
Vollmer injury spotlights OL depth - Mike Reiss - Reiss takes a look at the depth on the offensive line after the Patriots lost Vollmer on Sunday.
Weekly Tedy Bruschi chat recap - Mike Reiss - Reiss has the recap of Bruschi's chat in this entry, which always has some interesting stuff in it.
Belichick says 'plenty of room for improvement' for Patriots - Glen Farley - Farley has comments from Bill Belichick from yesterday, and writes that consistency has been difficult to come by for the Patriots as of late.
Patriots Journal: Pats stuck to plan, kept on blitzing - Paul Kenyon - Kenyon writes that the Patriots persistancy in their game plan paid off after they kept blitzing Miami on Sunday.
Patriots' persistence pays off in win over Dolphins - Rich Garven - Garven writes that things couldn't have gone any worse for the Patriots against Miami in the first half, but Belichick talked about how they managed to turn it around during his conference call on Monday.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Season becoming an act of attrition - Mark Farinella - Farinella looks at the Patriots last few games and writes that the injury bug "has become an infestation".
The Patriots didn't do much of anything in the opening quarter on Sunday against the Dolphins, and it wasn't until Stevan Ridley entered the game five minutes into the second quarter that the Patriots began moving the football.
He carried the football on five of their 13 plays during their first scoring drive, which ended in a 34-yard field goal to cut the Dolphins' lead to 14-3. He picked up 23 yards on that possession along with two first downs.
The big story seemed to be the fact that Ridley didn't start the game and joined rookie defensive back Logan Ryan on the sideline during the opening quarter. Some speculated that it was due to their touchdown celebrations last week against the Jets, but it was hard not to notice the difference he made when he finally stepped into New England's offense.
Overall he finished the day with 14 carries for 79 yards, his third highest total this season and the most he's had since their week six match-up against the Saints where he carried the ball 20 times for 96 yards. On Sunday he also scored a key 3-yard fourth quarter touchdown that finished off New England's 24-0 second half scoring run that basically put the game out of reach and helped drop the Dolphins below .500 at 3-4, while the Patriots improved to 6-2 on the year.
"Our offensive line was giving some push," Ridley told reporters after the game. "The holes were a little bit tight at first and I think as the game progressed, the offensive line, we really started leaning on them and some creases were in there."
In the second half he started slicing through the holes of Miami's defense, carrying 9 times for 56 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry while helping provide a little balance to New England's offense. However, where the Patritos really grabbed the momentum was following a missed 46 yard field goal by Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis during the third quarter. On New England's first play from scrimmage on their ensuing drive, Ridley ripped off a 23 yard run up the middle, which was his longest rush of the season. That put them in Dolphins territory at Miami's 41 yard line and two plays later, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 23 yard pass down the middle of the field to put them down inside Miami's 18. He then followed that up with a 14-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Aaron Dobson, which at the time cut Miami's lead to 17-10 and woke up the fans at Gillette Stadium that had previously booed them off the field at the half.
When asked if that run helped get things started, Ridley didn't deny it.
"I would be lying if I said I didn't," said Ridley. "It's a spark that came from it and I think that was just the boulder that our offensive line had to push and roll over. And once we got that big run going, it helped our offense to come in there and set up the pass. "
Overall it worked out well, with the Patriots piling up 111 yards on the ground in the second half on Sunday, with Ridley accounting for 56 of them. It would have been better if they had been able to play a complete game offensively, but in the end, Ridley says they'll take the win.
"You definitely got to play four quarters in this league," said Ridley. "You know there are always tough games. We're always playing against great competition, so mental toughness goes a long way, especially a division game that counts a lot in the divisional standings and stuff like that, so we had a big week of preparation here.
"I think we did a great job of coming in and understanding the concepts of how we wanted to play these guys and the first half [we] didn't play like we should have and the second half we played how we wanted to play for the whole game, so we'll take it."
When Sebastian Vollmer woke up on Sunday morning, he obviously had no idea how his day was going to end up.
However, what should have been business as usual for the veteran right tackle on Sunday ended up as one of the most difficult injuries fans have had to witness in recent years, and it came on a second quarter run by Stevan Ridley that ultimately went horribly wrong.
On the play Vollmer was engaged with Miami defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, who Vollmer had blocked out of the play, which opened up a hole behind him for Ridley to cut through. However, Dan Connolly, who was lined up next to Vollmer, wasn't able to keep McDaniel's teammate, Randy Starks, from cutting inside and taking Ridley down as he made his move behind Vollmer.
Starks grabbed Ridley from behind and as he twisted to pull down the Patriots running back, he landed right on the legs of Vollmer.
The normally tough right tackle let out a scream that was audible on the television broadcast and was heard by the fans who were on hand to witness it unfold right in front of them. Over and over he yelled, slamming his fists into the turf as his right leg was bent awkwardly.
The stadium clearly became very quiet, as fans witnessed trainers rushing to him and placing his leg into an air cast. Air casts generally mean a broken leg, and the replay on the television broadcast more or less confirmed it.
Even the normally coy Bill Belichick didn't try and downplay it during his press conference.
"That's a tough loss," said Belichick after the game. "To see Sebastian get carted off like that, he's been such a great player for us and such a great teammate."
Marcus Cannon stepped in and did a good job after Vollmer left, but there's no question that seeing the veteran tackle's season end so abruptly was tough to take. It will likely be Cannon's job for the foreseeable future now that Vollmer is gone, and Belichick was at least happy with what Cannon was able to do once Vollmer went out.
"I thought Marcus [Cannon] went in there and did a good job and the line, that's a good front," said Belichick. "We ran the ball competitively, we were able to give Tom [Brady] some time to deliver the ball there in the second half, he made some good throws, made some good catches, got some good plays from our offense. Finished the drives, got the ball in the end zone, so there were a lot of positives there."
It's yet another tough loss for a Patriots team that has already had their fair share of injuries this season and unfortunately for Vollmer, he's now part of that group.
When you have a franchise quarterback, one of the major priorities is generally keeping him upright.
After all, if he doesn't have time to make the throws, it's tough to obviously expect a whole lot of production for him. Over the years the Patriots have generally done a pretty good job protecting Tom Brady, but for some strange reason it's becoming a problem this season.
It started in Cincinnati. Coming into that game the Patriots had allowed just seven sacks, but the Bengals managed to get to him four times during New England's first loss of the year and apparently gave teams some insight into how not only to disrupt him, but also in how to bring him down.
New Orleans got to him five times and nearly did enough to hand the Patriots their second-straight defeat had he not pulled out that miraculous final drive.
Then on Sunday the Jets managed to bring him down four more times, bringing the total number of sacks the Patriots have given up through seven games to 20. They allowed a total of 27 all of last season, and if things don't change, clearly they'll go well beyond that total.
As it is, they're already on pace to allow 46 sacks this year. That's five more than they've ever given up in a given season, with their highest total being the 41 they allowed back in 2001, which was the year Brady first replaced Drew Bledsoe and that total was accumulated over just 15 starts. Other than that, they've never allowed more than 32, which came back in 2011 and from there you'd have to go all the way back to 2003 when New England gave up the same total.
While this team currently has a myriad of issues on the offensive side of the football, looking at the numbers it starts to make sense. Brady's been sacked on first down eight times this season, three more than he was in that situation all of last year. That's played a part in the fact of the 169 second downs they've attempted this year, they've faced 2nd-and-7 or longer 108 times (64% of their plays). They've also failed to gain a yard rushing the football on 2nd down 14 times this year, which now typically translates into long yardage situations on third down. As it is, the Patriots overall are just 35-of-105 converting on third down this season.
Looking closer you can see one glaring issue as the Patriots have faced 3rd-and-7 or longer on 51 plays (49%). Since that situation usually turns it into an obvious passing down, teams are teeing off on him and he's seen a lot of pressure as a result. Of those 51 plays, they've converted just 13, and Brady's been sacked on 5 of them. They've brought him down 10 times on third down so far this year, just four shy of the 14 sacks in that situation all of last season.
Looking back at 2012, the Patriots were only in 3rd-and-7 or longer a total of 59 times all year, and they're obviously already close to that at this point in the season.
Needless to say it's a problem that will need to be corrected, and obviously sooner rather than later. Having a 36-year old quarterback take that kind of abuse isn't conducive to what they're trying to accomplish, and they're about to take on another team that knows how to get to the quarterback. The Dolphins have the fifth highest sack total in the league with 42, which poses yet another challenge.
As we know they'll likely only go as far as the right arm of Brady will take them, but he can't throw it if he's on the ground. Being sacked nearly 50 times at his age isn't going to help their offensive production, and each hit clearly increases the possibility of an injury. Hopefully it never comes to that, but nevertheless the Patriots clearly have a problem that definitely needs to be fixed. If they don't, we'll likely just continue to see more of the same.
BELICHICK MANAGED GRONKOWSKI'S OUTING BY PERSONNEL GROUPINGS:
Obviously Sunday saw Rob Gronkowski see his first game action of the year, and he was in on 48 of the Patriots 75 offensive snaps against the Jets, or 64%. It's always interesting to figure out how the team manages certain players when it comes to easing them back into the line-up, and Bill Belichick offered some insight into that on Monday during his conference call with the media. When asked how he and his staff put together a plan on how to best manage him in the game, Belichick explained that it was due to personnel groupings they put together before the contest.
"He was in the game in certain personnel groups and wasn’t in the game in other groups," said. "That was one way to manage it. Then just on the sideline watching how he was doing and talking to him, I think we got a sense of what the amount or level of plays were going to be for him as the game went down. I’d say a combination of those two things."
JONES HAS BEEN DISRUPTIVE THUS FAR:
As mentioned yesterday, Chandler Jones is off to a good start during his second NFL season, having accumulated 6.5 sacks through seven games, putting him ahead of last year's total. He's currently among the league leaders in that category, and is tied for 7th in the NFL with that total. Yesterday Belichick sounded pleased with what he's seen from the second year defensive end, and hopes it continues.
"I thought that Chandler played very competitively," said Belichick. "Look, with every player there are always plays that could be better. I would say that about anybody after almost any game. He definitely had some disruptive plays. I thought we had a lot of guys in the front seven that made some disruptive plays at times. We got them from Joe [Vellano] and Chris [Jones], Chandler, Rob [Ninkovich]. Like Rob’s play on the interception to [Logan] Ryan, he was right in [Geno] Smith’s face there. I don’t know if that affected the throw or not, but might have. Certainly Brandon [Spikes] was disruptive in the running game, Jamie Collins had some disruptive plays... [Dont’a] Hightower. I thought we had a number of those throughout the course of the game. Of course, we played too many plays on defense, was part of the problem. A number of guys were active up there and Chandler had plays in both the running game and the passing game that were disruptive and physical plays. I think that he’s strung a few weeks here together and hopefully we can continue, he can continue to do that."
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Scouting the Miami Dolphins - Erik Frenz
Patriots continue to stumble on third down - Shalise Manza Young
Bill Belichick takes the blame for pushing penalty - Shalise Manza Young
Players push back at Jets’ Willie Colon - Jeff Howe
Numbers tell 2nd-half story for Patriots - Jeff Howe
Key penalty, weak offense led to Patriots' loss - AP
Patriots Report Card: Team flunks despite working OT - Ron Borges
Pats-Jets: Five takeaways from the game - Jeff Howe
TV: Nantz and Simms on the call - Mike Reiss
Getting to know the Miami Dolphins - Field Yates
Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2013 season - Christopher Price
Bill Belichick: ‘We’re wrong’ in understanding of new field goal rule - Christopher Price
Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game - Christopher Price
Tom Brady Struggles More Than Receivers Against Jets, Especially in Overtime As Patriots Had Chance to Win - Doug Kyed
Looking at Sunday's loss to the Jets, it's hard not to admit that the Patriots woes at this point in the season are starting to become a little bit concerning.
New England's offense got back what was thought to be one of their biggest assets against the Jets, with Rob Gronkowski active for the first time since re-fracturing his forearm during the team's postseason win over the Texans back in January. Up to this point it seemed that he was the one piece of the puzzle that would potentially have helped get this group back on track. However, despite finishing with eight catches for 114 yards on Sunday, Gronkowski's return didn't end up having much of an effect and New England actually looked worse than they have all season.
Obviously one of the biggest discussions is going to center around the mistake rookie defensive lineman Chris Jones made in overtime, but this game was lost well before it ever reached that point. Despite taking a 21-10 lead at halftime with the chance to put them away to start the third quarter, New England completely fell apart. They started the second half with the football, but it got ugly almost immediately. They dodged a bullet on their first play from scrimmage after Tom Brady was sacked and lost the football but was able to recover it. However, on the second Brady threw to a well covered Gronkowski from his own 14 yard line and was picked off, with the interception being returned 23 yards for the touchdown.
Just like that the tide turned, and the Jets piled up 17 third quarter points to put themselves in control of the football game, and held New England to just two field goals in the second half.
The biggest problem on Sunday was the fact that the Patriots were a dismal 1-of-12 on third down, and that can be attributed to the fact that, once again, they put themselves in long yardage situations. Brady was sacked four times on Sunday, 3 of which were on first down and if he wasn't getting sacked, he failed to muster a completion. Overall he was just 7-of-19 on first down (37%), connecting just once in that situation to Kenbrell Thompkins (1-of-2 overall on first down), but was 0-for-3 to Aaron Dobson, 0-for-2 to Austin Collie, and 0-for-2 to Brandon Bolden. That saw them face 2nd-and-10 or more on 17 of New England's 25 plays on second down, and 3rd-and-10 or more on six of their twelve third down plays.
It makes it difficult to get much going offensively, and Tom Brady admitted that much after the game.
"We haven't been good on third down all year and I think obviously that's a big problem," said Brady. "You can't stay on the field and help our defense out. We have to be better in all areas, certainly we have to be better on third down and in the red area. But there's no excuses. We just didn't play well. I've got to do a better job out there, and that's what I need to do."
Defensively the Patriots did about as much as they could have been asked, but the offense's inability to sustain a drive left them on the field for 46 minutes on Sunday, and the Jets kept pounding the football at them until they more or less ran out of gas. New York rushed the football 52 times on Sunday, and New England's defense actually managed to hold them to three or less yards on 29 of the Jets' carries, including 11 in which they didn't allow a yard.
They even held New York scoreless in the fourth quarter, allowing them to convert just four offensive first downs (2 rushing, 2 passing) while holding Geno Smith to 4-of-8 for 30 yards passing. However, Brady was just 7-of-18 in the final quarter of regulation and 1-of-4 in overtime, which had their offense spinning its wheels and left the defense with little help.
The fact they've been unable to get a good start in the second half has been a problem through the first seven games, with opponents outscoring them 44-9 in the third quarter this season.
"I think it's really poor execution," Brady said when asked why they've struggled in the 3rd quarter this season. "Like I said, we had a great opportunity to take control of the game and we didn't. We fought hard, we just didn't do what it takes to beat a good defense."
Needless to say at this point they're still in tough shape and don't appear to have any answers as they continue trying to get things moving offensively. With Miami coming in on Sunday the Patriots will face a tough divisional opponent who is coming off of a difficult 23-21 loss to the Bills. But they're going to continue to have a difficult time winning football games if they can't score points or move the chains, and it's something Brady says they'll just have to keep working on.
"You know, we're working hard in practice and we're trying to get the job done," said Brady. "It's just for one reason or another, we're not quite there yet. We're not clicking how we need to on third down, in the red area, and we've been inconsistent certainly in the passing game. and we've got to try and figure out how to get better and work hard at it so we can get better."
JONES OWNS UP TO HIS MISTAKE:
Chris Jones' penalty in overtime was one that seemingly caught everyone, including Bill Belichick, off guard and watching the play it was tough to see what the officials were calling. During the play Jones appeared to be caught in the middle with the guys around him and during his rush against the Jets during Nick Folk's 56-yard field goal attempt, he apparently reached over and tried to help Will Svitek get a little extra push inside. Out came the flag, and just like that not only was the Jets drive extended, but the 15 yards they received from the penalty helped make the final few plays a little easier to set up their game-winning field goal.
According to Belichick, the interpretation to the rule that was cited when the referees called the penalty was that it couldn't come from the second level, which in this case didn't happen. Instead, the officials pointed out that players aren't allowed to push another teammate at all, and obviously the Jets got a second chance and we know how it ended.
After the game was over, Jones shouldered the blame for the penalty.
"It was something that I decided to do," he told the Boston Herald. "I was just trying to get that extra little oomph in the middle to get up there. Just trying to block the field goal. I made that mistake. I should have been more aware. It was my mistake, nobody else's. I've just got to man up to it and fix it next time."
Overall he had a pretty solid outing, finishing with 10 tackles (3 for a loss) as well as two sacks. As nice as all of that was, Jones said none of it matters since they didn't win the game.
"It would've been great if we would've won, but we lost," said Jones. "So everything that happened before that is just out the window."
SLATER BACKS HIS TEAMMATE:
Back in action for the first time since getting injured was Matthew Slater, who as a leader on this team backed his teammate after the game as media members apparently began peppering Jones with questions.
According to the Boston Globe Slater let everyone there know that Jones wasn't the reason they lost the game.
"It's not on him," Slater told the media via the Boston Globe of Jones. "There were 20, 30 plays throughout the game that could have gone differently. You guys are asking Chris a lot of questions, but it's not his fault. We lost this game as a team."
JETS FAN PUNCHES PATRIOTS FAN IN THE FACE:
Reading that headline you would normally roll your eyes and just assume it was a normal altercation between rival fans. However, in this case some Jets fan wearing a Wayne Chrebet jersey completely clocked a petite blond woman wearing Patriots gear in the face after a verbal exchange that caused the woman to go up to him and give him a shove. After the push the man reeled back and clocked her in the face, and you can see in the video the amount of force he hit her with. Give her credit, she didn't go down, but it's disgusting to think the guy didn't just decide to simply walk away.
SOME NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
1) Following Sunday's game the Patriots have now run 500 offensive plays this season, including 70 during yesterday's loss.
2) Yesterday marked the second straight week where Tom Brady failed to throw a touchdown pass. His next one will move him ahead of Fran Tarkenton for fourth all time in the NFL.
3) What a difference a year makes. In last year's meeting in New York the Patriots were nearly flawless on third down, finishing 11-of-15 on the afternoon. Brady also finished 7-of-8 passing with two touchdowns. Obviously they didn't repeat that performance yesterday.
4) Turnover streak remains intact - Logan Ryan's interception return for a touchdown fortunately kept one streak going yesterday, with the Patriots now with 34 straight games forcing a turnover. Obviously that was one of the only bright spots in Sunday's win, but likely an exciting one for the rookie.
5) After yesterday's game Chandler Jones now has 6.5 sacks on the season, topping the six he had all of last season and currently has him tied for 7th in the NFL with that total.
6) Julian Edelman's five catch performance on Sunday now has him ranked 3rd in the NFL in receptions with 46, trailing Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown (47) and Houston's Andre Johnson (48). Wes Welker has 44 on the season.
7) Tom Brady's fourth quarter stats haven't exactly been great in recent weeks and you can probably expect some criticism in the media this week thanks to yesterday's outcome. After starting the first four games with completion percentages of 65%, 60%, 86% and 75% respectively over that span, Brady went 3-of-12 (25%) in Cincinnati, 6-of-13 (46%) last week against the Saints (albeit he pulled out that heroic late game drive), and 7-of-18 (39%) Sunday in New York. Expect those numbers to be thrown around this week.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Jets dominate in the trenches - Ben Volin - Volin has his analysis from yesterday's loss, which saw the Patriots struggle against the Jets running game.
Patriots penalty helps Jets claim OT victory - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young files her game story this morning, which looks at many of the problems the Patriots had on Sunday.
Tom Brady blames himself for Patriots loss - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer looks at Brady, who took responsibility for the loss in New York on Sunday.
Rob Gronkowski plays well in his return to Patriots - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer looks at Gronkowski's performance on Sunday, who obviously made his return to the field for the first time since back in January.
Patriots' Chris Jones didn't keep up with the rules - Ben Volin - Volin files his "on football" piece this morning, and writes that Jones took full responsibility for his penalty in overtime.
Patriots' young defenders really took charge - Ben Volin - Volin looks at the defense's overall performance, which aside from the gaffe in overtime saw Chris Jones play pretty well.
5 takeaways from the second Patriots-Jets game - Zuri Berry - Berry files this morning's takeaways, which includes the Patriots issues in the third quarter.
Rob Gronkowski a focal point for Patriots in loss to Jets - Berry writes that in his first game back, Gronkowski had a significant role for the team's offense against the Jets.
Rob Gronkowski erratic in return to lineup - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that Gronkowski at times looked like himself on Sunday, but appeared to get fatigued as the game wore on and stumbled out of breaks.
Jets defense sacks, picks Brady to pieces - Dan Duggan - Duggan files his game story for the Herald, and writes that for the second time this season, the New York Jets left Tom Brady completely frustrated.
Best and worst of yesterday's Pats-Jets game - Ron Borges - Borges has this week's "best and worst" piece, which includes rookie Logan Ryan's interception returned for a touchdown.
Patriots rookie shows class following key mistake - Ron Borges - Borges has a good column this morning on Chris Jones, who made no excuses after the loss.
Inability to convert for first downs pains Tom Brady - Jeff Howe - Howe files this morning's notebook and writes the Patriots issues on third down is becoming a troubling trend.
Ryan's pick-six special - Karen Guregian - Guregian has an article this morning on Logan Ryan, who felt it the play he picked up Geno Smith for a touchdown was just a play where "11 guys did their job".
Penalty, failure to execute cost Patriots in OT loss - Jeff Howe - Howe looks at Sunday's game and writes the Patriots weren't dealing with hypotheticals after it was over.
Snaps: Gronkowski eases into mix - Mike Reiss - Reiss has snap counts from yesterday's game, noting that Gronkowski was somewhat limited in his return.
Misinterpretation costly for Belichick, Pats - Mike Reiss - Reiss files his game story from yesterday, and writes that the Patriots issues run deeper than the rule that gave the Jets new life in overtime.
Tom Brady: I have to do a better job - Mike Reiss - Reiss has comments from Brady after the game, who admitted fault on the pick-six he threw to start the second half.
Bill Belichick disagrees with flag - Field Yates - Yates looks at Belichick's reaction following Sunday's game, where the coach didn't seemingly agree with the call.
Gronkowski: 'Feeling good,' but work to do - Field Yates - Yates has post game comments from Gronkowski who felt good after the game but feels he has "lots to improve on".
Sunday proves Tom Brady, Patriots don't look right - Mike Petraglia - Petraglia writes there was no excuse for the Patriots coughing up a 21-0 halftime lead and gagging their way to a 30-27 loss to the Jets.
What we learned: Near misses, ill-timed errors mark surprising loss to Jets - Christopher Price - Price has his weekly column and looks at a variety of areas, and it's a great entry for those of you who haven't seen it.
New England Patriots rookie cornerback Logan Ryan on his pick-6 - Nick Underhill - Underhill has comments from rookie Logan Ryan following his performance on Sunday, which included an interception returned for a touchdown.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE
Gronk welcomed back with open arms - Mark Farinella - Farinella looks at yesterday's win, and notes that the Jets didn't treat Rob Gronkowski with kid gloves during his return.
Pushed aside - Mark Farinella - Farinella writes that with no Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo, and Aqib Talib, the Patriots personnel issues caught up with them on Sunday against the Jets.
FARINELLA: A rookie's mistake - Mark Farinella - Farinella has his column this morning and looks at Chris Jones, and the rule that obviously came int
The Patriots suffered another tough blow over the weekend after seeing Jerod Mayo go down Sunday against the Saints, and Monday night revealed more bad news for this football team.
According to an initial report from Les Carpenter of Yahoo! Sports, Mayo suffered a torn pectoral and underwent surgery to repair it, and Tom Curran of Comcast Sports New England - who knows Mayo well after all of their weekly preview segments - said that a return for the linebacker is "not likely" for 2013.
Sure enough, Wednesday morning the team announced they've placed him on injured reserve, ending his season.
That's yet more bad news for a defense that has now suffered the loss of another leader, with the team having already lost Vince Wilfork for the season to a torn Achilles. Mayo was one of the Patriots most versatile players in New England's defense and is an every down player, having played in 399 of their 407 defensive snaps this season and hadn't missed a play before he went down in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win over the Saints.
He also led the team in tackles with 55 this season, and is one of their better defenders against the run. When looking at the overall numbers it's pretty staggering what they've done to this point. Of the 147 positive carries they've allowed this season, 107 of them have been between just 1-5 yards. Mayo is obviously a big part of that, and it's going to be a challenge for the guys around him to hopefully step up now and fill that void.
The veteran was also the signal caller in New England's defense, with Erik Frenz of the Boston Globe pointing out that Dont'a Hightower got some experience during training camp wearing the "green dot" on his helmet, which represents being the signal caller for the defense. Having been in that role, should he see a more playing time (he was in on just 23 defensive snaps Sunday) it could be a big help now that Mayo is out because prior to going down that responsibility fell on him.
Either way the Patriots now have yet another adjustment to make after losing their second defensive captain of the season. New England isn't exactly a stranger when it comes to rolling with the punches, but after also losing Aqib Talib to an injury on the defensive side of the football Sunday, it's hard not wonder how many more they can take before this unit starts to falter. Talib's status for this weekend isn't known at this point, and hopefully he doesn't become yet another player that the Patriots will have to figure out a way to live without for any period of time.
It's yet another challenge as their work begins today to begin their preparations for the Jets, who they'll face in their final regular series match-up this weekend.
PATS STARTING TO SPEED THINGS UP:
Some good notes this morning from Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. She points out that New Orleans came to New England with the fourth ranked defense in the NFL and the Patriots racked up 26 first downs and 376 yards of offense during their 13 series, with the Patriots running no-huddle during a large portion of that including getting points on three of their first four possessions, two of which were touchdowns. That's a good sign considering they haven't done very much of it during the early part of the season, but hopefully this is an indication that many of these new players are starting to get more comfortable in New England's offense.
JETS WILLIE COLON 'HATES' THE PATRIOTS:
Interesting read this morning in ProFootballTalk with the Jets' offensive lineman Willie Colon telling the New York Daily News, "I just hate them," when speaking about the Patriots. It's not very often you hear that from a guard, so it will be interesting to follow who matches up against him and how effective he is on Sunday when these two teams get together.
RARE PRAISE FROM BELICHICK FOR TOM BRADY:
Belichick is known for his "there's no other quarterback I'd rather have" when it comes to Brady, but he usually doesn't elaborate when asked about the play of his quarterback. During his conference call on Tuesday he had a little more to say, including some praise about Brady's poise under pressure.
"I'd say that's pretty much always been a trademark of Tom," said Belichick. "Even going back to the first year, we were in some really tight games throughout the year but particularly at the end of the year: the Oakland game in the snow, obviously the Super Bowl. I think Tom showed a lot of poise and composure in those games which is as big as it gets, his first year as a starting quarterback.
"But even throughout that year, when he first took over for Drew [Bledsoe] and started to become a regular player. We were in a lot of tight games, some we won, some we lost but I never felt that there was a sense of panic of discomfort or anything with Tom. He was always very poised and always had a real good vision in the game."
Belichick said that Brady never gets consumed by tough situations, and his ability to process changes quickly during practice are also two of his strengths.
"He does a very good job of knowing what the situation but not getting consumed by it and focusing on the execution of that particular play or sequence of plays," said Belichick. "I think that's one of his greatest strengths as a player. Yeah, I think it was evident from the 2001 season and it's been very, very consistent – same thing in practice too. You see the same thing in practice. You try to throw a new – which we do on a regular basis – we throw something in there that maybe the other team hasn't done or we haven't seen in awhile, just to keep us on our teams or run something that a team ran a couple weeks ago and hurt us with it and see if we're ready for it this time. He's very, very good about that too."
GROGAN ON THE GRONKOWSKI SITUATION:
In this morning's Grogan's Grade (now available) Grogan talked again about the Gronkowski situation and had some interesting comments about how this may have played out during his time as a player, saying that there were no options to talk to a second doctor if a player was injured back in his day.
"Actually back in our day, they didn't allow you to see other doctors so it was pretty much what the team doctor told you to do," said Grogan. "When he told you you could get back out there, you went back out and played. It would have been nice maybe sometimes to have that second opinion, but we didn't. I think as a team leader, you just have to realize as I said earlier, Gronkowski wants to play football. That's what he's there to do, and he'll get back out there when he feels like he's best suited to get back out there."
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
SOURCE: Jerod Mayo All Done - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with a bit on Mayo, as well as some additional notes on the Jets.
Return of no-huddle good sign for Patriots offense - Karen Guregian - Guregian looks at New England's use of the no-huddle this season, which she feels is a good sign for the progress of the offense.
Thoughts on the loss of Jerod Mayo - Erik Frenz - Frenz has his thoughts on the loss of Mayo, and feels that with all the bad luck the Patriots have had that Belichick either crossed paths with too many black cats or broke one too many mirrors.
It's early, but Patriots, Jets ready to meet again - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has an article this morning on the rematch between the two teams, which will see them complete their two regular season meetings by just week seven of this season.
Jets' offense has injuries, too - Ben Volin - Volin writes that the Patriots may actually have a healthier offense than New York's when the two meet this weekend.
When heat gets turned up, Tom Brady stays cool - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has a column on Brady, who he writes got some praise from Belichick yesterday for his poise under pressure.
ON FOOTBALL: Patriots won the one-on-one against the Saints - Ben Volin - Volin has a great look at Sunday's game, including the fact that Stevan Ridley had a big day because Logan Mankins and Nate Solder dominated Akiem Hicks and Junior Galette.
Catching up with former Patriots, Week 6 - Mike Reiss - Reiss has his weekly update on what's going on with some former Patriots, including Jermaine Cunningham, who despite signing with the 49ers recently has yet to see any game action.
In Focus: Charting Offensive Opportunities for Patriots Skill Position Players - Christopher Price - Price breaks down each skill position and has numbers including negative plays, etc. in this entry.
Jerod Mayo injury a big blow to a New England Patriots defense that already lost Vince Wilfork - Nick Underhill - Underhill looks at the loss of Mayo and what it means for the Patriots defense.
Patriots unleash Austin Collie against Saints - Glen Farley - Farley has an article on Austin Collie, who got his first game action Sunday for New England against the Saints and was a key part of their victory.
Stevan Ridley nominated for FedEx Ground Player of the Week
Matt Patricia Conference Call Transcript
Josh McDaniels Conference Call Transcript
Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript
Tom Brady nominated for GMC Never Say Never Moment
Watching the way Sunday's game unfolded in the final minutes before Tom Brady's heroic comeback, it's hard not to realize that had he not pulled off that miracle, things were about to get pretty ugly.
You could see the tide turning while following fan reactions both online and obviously at the stadium, where a massive amount of them clearly didn't believe that Brady had the magic to bring the Patriots back from a mere six point deficit with two minutes left in the game.
They saw him get the ball back with 2:24 to go and he threw deep down the right side of the field into double coverage and not exactly near Julian Edelman, who had tried to break free and clearly wasn't thinking what Brady was as the ball was picked off, giving the Saints the football for what appeared to be the game clinching play.
Everyone got up and headed for the exits. Media members likely started writing their post game stories which probably would have been about how the Patriots had blown a ten point halftime lead only to let Drew Brees and the Saints rally back and how Brady had the chance and couldn't pull it off.
"Sorry if you had to rewrite some of those stories there at the end," said Belichick after the game. He's not an idiot. He knew exactly what was coming had it not worked out the way it did.
Instead, New England's defense stopped New Orleans one more time and gave Brady one final opportunity to pull off the win. Eight plays later Kenbrell Thompkins hauled in the pass and just like that, all was forgotten after what was left of the Gillette Stadium crowd watched an incredible win over a team favored to be a Super Bowl contender against that other team in Denver that none of us likes talking about.
After the game, Brady was the hero and the stories on Monday lamented about how great he is and how amazing he's always been in clutch situations. Had Drew Brees been able to run out the clock after Brady's interception, those likely would have replaced the other stories that were already written about how in the last two games he would have finished a combined 38-of-73 (52%) with 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. They'd be talking about how he would have been just 4-for-17 (24%) in the fourth quarter over that same span, with the same touchdown to interception ratio. From there, they'd simply talk about how he had blown two straight chances at come from behind victories.
But fortunately Brady saved himself and his team, who through it all this season continues to battle the critics despite a 5-1 record. With all the trials and tribulations they continue to face between injuries, the Rob Gronkowski situation, and everything else that has come along, they've somehow managed to pull together and are still among the top teams in the league.
Like Brady said after the game, winning changes everything and it certainly changes the perception, but it also helps keep everyone together and believing their best is still yet to come.
"Winning helps galvanize everything," said Brady after the game. "Losing sucks and it was a rough week. You know, I think the thing is there's a lot of character and mental toughness and that really showed. We were down, but not out and we had some momentum go our way that we didn't take advantage of. And then it went their way, and then we fought and overcame some odds. So that's what football is about and you're going to have those over the course of a season and I was just proud of the way that we hung in there and never stopped fighting. "
They'll have to continue fighting because it doesn't seem like it's going to get any easier. Injuries are still an issue after they lost Danny Amendola to a concussion, as well as linebacker Jerod Mayo (who left the stadium in a sling and wasn't spotted yesterday by media members in the locker room). Aqib Talib left Sunday's contest but according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald didn't appear to be limping Monday.
So they'll continue working through each of these issues and will hopefully see guys continue to step up again this week on the road against the Jets. Brady used the phrase "grinding it out" when talking about these games, and he'll have to continue doing just that since they're still getting things together offensively and are no longer putting up points at the same feverish pace they used to. But so far they're still a team that finds a way to win, even if it's not pretty.
For now there's still a long way to go and it's just amazing to think it's reached the point where everyone seems to be waiting for the other shoe to drop and for it all to unravel. Fortunately to this point Brady and Belichick have been able to keep that from happening, but Sunday was a disturbing example of how quickly the tide might have turned if Brady hadn't gotten that final chance to will his team to a win.
PROTECTION NEEDS TO IMPROVE:
One thing that needs to be noted is the fact that the protection for Brady these last two weeks hasn't been great, especially looking at the numbers for the first four weeks. During his first four games Brady was sacked seven times, but over this most recent two game stretch he's been taken down an astounding nine times, including five on Sunday. That's something that obviously needs to improve, since it's tough to throw the ball accurately under duress and teams seem to be having more success than usual getting pressure on him.
RED ZONE IMPROVEMENT:
During the last two games Brady is tightening up his accuracy down in the red zone. Through the first four weeks Brady was just 8-of-19 (42%) compared to 5-of-8 (63%) down in scoring territory these last two games, including a flawless performance on Sunday since he finished 4-of-5 on the afternoon. His only incompletion came thanks to a spike to stop the clock and while he only has one passing touchdown over that span, Sunday also saw Stevan Ridley run two of New England's scoring plays in. They seem to be getting better each week and hopefully that continues.
BELICHICK PRAISES CHRIS JONES:
With the injuries to Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, Chris Jones ended up playing every snap offensive on Sunday for New England and on Monday Bill Belichick had praise for Jones during his conference call.
"Chris, as you mentioned, he got a lot of playing time yesterday," said Belichick. "I think he was in there for every play, that's right. Chris is a smart kid. He came in and picked things up pretty quickly. His play time has increased a little bit each week. I think he's athletic, he runs well, he has good playing strength, he has a little bit of quickness in the pass rush and overall, he's got I think decent skills in there."
"He's active, he runs well, he's been a factor in both the running game and the passing game. He still has a long way to go, but works hard, plays hard; tough kid. He's smart and he's done a good job picking things up."
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
A quiet morning on this front, but here are the articles I was able to dig up:
Patriots offense was driven to succeed - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young has an article on the offense, and the two different drives that they put together to win during week one in Buffalo compared to the one they needed Sunday.
Patriots Report Card: Last-second heroics boost grades - Ron Borges - Borges has his report card for Sunday's game and called it a "curious day for Tom Brady" after his 9-for-21 second half performance.
Kenbrell Thompkins goes to finishing cool - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with a bit on Kenbrell Thompkins, who had his phone blown up by his friends after Sunday's win thanks to his game-winning catch.
Aaron Dobson catches on quickly - Mark Daniels - Daniels has an article on Dobson, who he writes is doing something many rookies have tried and failed to do, and that's connect with Brady.
Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 6 - Christopher Price - Price looks at Brady's "confidence index" through six weeks, and writes that Stevan Ridley rebounded and the effort of Austin Collie.
What we learned: With Tom Brady, Patriots 'always have a chance' - Christopher Price - Price has his "What we learned" for this week, which looks at the fact it's been a trying season for Brady.
Getting to know the Jets ... again - Field Yates - Yates takes another look at the Jets this time as he does each week, and has a "reintroduction" to Rex Ryan's club.
Another Chapter for Tom Brady's Storybook - Peter King - King has a great look back at Sunday's win, and praises Brady's effort as well as some other thoughts from week 6.
Tom Brady drive kicked off New England double delight - Rich Garven - Garven writes that New England sports fans are used to seeing wins both in Foxboro and Boston, and Sunday obviously brought that same feeling once again.
Every year there's always a moment you can look back on and feel like it may have been the moment that defined the season.
With five seconds to go, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady may have done just that after pulling off an incredible 30-27 come-from-behind win over the New Orleans Saints in front of a half-empty Gillette Stadium crowd on Sunday.
The half that stayed may have witnessed a turning point in an offense that reached the thirty point plateau for the first time all season, and did it in dramatic fashion. After throwing an interception on the previous drive that had seemingly sealed the game for the Saints, Brady was given just over a minute to go out and get some redemption.
Seven plays later the Patriots managed to work their way down to the Saints' 17 yard line, including converting a critical fourth down play on a pass to recently signed Austin Collie, who caught a nine yard pass to convert a 4th-and-4 to extend the drive with just over :20 seconds to go in the game. Brady spiked the ball after that conversion and had enough time for potentially two plays to try and pull off the victory.
Turns out, all he needed was one, hitting Kenbrell Thompkins in the corner of the endzone for a 17-yard touchdown that caused Gillette Stadium to erupt as fans witnessed a miracle as Brady delivered the knockout blow to the Saints and ended their undefeated record.
"We had everybody going to the end zone and he kind of snuck into the corner," Brady said of Thompins play after the game. "I put it up there for him and he came down and made a great catch. There were a lot of great catches there at the end. Julian [Edelman], the seam ball to start the drive and then Austin [Collie] had a fourth-down catch. AD [Aaron Dobson] came back, caught an in-cut, that was a big play. So that was great situational football and a great win against a really good team. We’re 5-1, we’re just grinding. Hopefully we can use this as a little bit of momentum going into next week.”
It was a great finish to an afternoon that saw the return of running back Stevan Ridley, who missed last week's game with a knee injury. Ridley carried the ball 20 times for 96 yards including two touchdowns, and was a huge reason why the offense was able to keep the Saints off balance for most of the game. He also finished with six first downs, one more than the five he had all season coming into Sunday's contest.
Third down was once again an issue for New England, who finished the afternoon just 5-for-15 and they found themselves in long-yardage situations throughout most of the game. Of the fifteen they faced, seven of them were of 3rd-and-7 or longer, including four from beyond ten yards. However, it was a 3rd-and-18 in the second quarter that they converted thanks to a 19-yard reception by Michael Hoomanawanui that ended up being a key point in the game. It extended New England's drive and it ended with a four yard touchdown run by Stevan Ridley that put them up 17-7, which was their second straight scoring drive after Ridley had punched in another one from one yard out on their previous possession.
However, defensively the Patriots came up with one of their best performances of the season. Aqib Talib held Jimmy Graham without a catch, and they also did a good job of making things difficult on New Orleans on third down. Overall the Saints finished 5-of-14 converting on third down, with the Patriots forcing them into long yardage situations on the majority of them. The Saints faced 3rd-and-7 or longer nine times on Sunday, converting just two of them. They also held them to three-and-out on five of their twelve possessions on Sunday. That's an impressive feat against a team that came into this game as one of the most prolific offenses in the league.
Needless to say after last week's performance in Cincinnati, if there were any doubters left about whether New England's defense has what it takes to take them a long way this season, they should have changed their minds after what they did Sunday afternoon. After the game Belichick was pleased with what he had seen, and certainly with good reason.
"Obviously after we didn’t have a good outing last week in Cincinnati, I thought the players prepared hard, they practiced hard, and it was satisfying to go out there and beat a good team like New Orleans today," said Belichick. "You’ll be hearing from them plenty, they’re pretty good.”
They certainly were, but on Sunday the Patriots were better. Unfortunately the roar from the crowd that stuck it out with them was what the fans in the parking lot heard in what so far has been the most memorable game of the season. In years past there has always been the one game that brings this team together, and it's hard not to feel like this may have been one of them.
Brady was proud of his teammates after the game and when asked if this game could "galvanize" this team, he said that winning certainly helps them in that regard after losing a tough one last week.
"Well, winning helps galvanize everything," said Brady. "Losing sucks and it was a rough week. You know, I think the thing is there’s a lot of character and mental toughness and that really showed. We were down, but not out and we had some momentum go our way that we didn’t take advantage of. And then it went their way, and then we fought and overcame some odds.
"So that’s what football is about and you’re going to have those over the course of a season and I was just proud of the way that we hung in there and never stopped fighting. "
That they did, and now they're 5-1 heading into next Sunday's game down in New York against the Jets.
A COSTLY WIN IN TERMS OF INJURIES:
The Patriots may have won the battle on Sunday against the Saints, but it's going to be interesting to see at what cost it came at. The Patriots saw Aqib Talib (hip), Danny Amendola (head), Jerod Mayo (shoulder) and Dan Connolly (concussion) all get knocked out of Sunday's game. There was no word after the game on Talib but members of the media spotted Mayo with his arm in a sling as he was leaving the stadium. Amendola took an unbelievable shot on an end around late in the game that left him motionless immediately following the play, and he was pretty shaky when he did finally get up and leave the field. All of these injuries will be something to watch, with Talib and Mayo being key since they're two of the most important pieces of New England's defense.
GRONK'S MOM CHIMES IN ON HIS SITUATION:
Yesterday's win over the Saints likely quieted the people clamoring for Rob Gronkowski's return to action, but it didn't stop his mom from talking to the media. According to Karen Guregian, the veteran tight end's mother told her that "Robbie is dying to play" and that the critics don't understand what he's going through. While I'm in total agreement that there must be a viable medical reason that has kept him out of action, one would have to believe that moments like this don't help the situation when he's trying to minimize himself from becoming a distraction.
SOME NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
1) Kyle Arrington's 3rd quarter interception extended the Patriots consecutive game forcing a turnover to 33 games, which is still currently the longest active streak in the NFL.
2) Tom Brady's game winning touchdown pass was the 342nd touchdown pass of his career, tying Fran Tarkenton for 4th in NFL history.
3) Stephen Gostkowski's 54 yard field goal in the 3rd quarter was his 9th career 50+ yard field goal, which breaks Adam Vinatieri's record of 8 and is a new franchise record.
4) From Fox Sports - Brady has played 92 regular season games in Foxboro and has only lost 14 regular season games at home during his career, which is an impressive .848 winning percentage.
5) The Patriots dominated the Saints in the first half, running 47 plays compared to just 25 for New Orleans. Overall they ran 83 plays on Sunday compared to 63.
6) Tom Brady finished the first two quarters with identical attempts and completions in each (8-of-11), which was a 73% completion percentage. It was the best 1st quarter performance in terms of completion percentage for Brady of the season, and the second best second quarter performance for him since his week three performance where he finished 9-of-12 with two touchdowns against the Buccaneers.
7) After normally being on the same page with Julian Edelman, Brady had a tough time connecting with him on Sunday as the Saints clearly made an effort to take him away. Overall Edelman was targeted 11 times with just five completions, including 1-for-5 in the fourth quarter.
8) Brady was solid in the red zone on Sunday, completing all four passes (excluding the spike) including his game winning touchdown, with Dobson being the leader down there after hauling in two passes on two attempts along with a first down. Kenbrell Thompkins was targeted just once, but it ended up being all he needed as it was his 17-yard game-winning reception.
9) After it had appeared that Drew Brees had completed his 31st career 4th quarter come-from-behind win, instead, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Brady came through with the 32nd game winning drive of his career, ranking him second among active players behind Peyton Manning, who has 49.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Instant analysis: Tom Brady still has some magic left - Ben Volin - Volin looks back at yesterday's game and writes that Brady still has a little magic left in his 36-year-old arm after all.
A Boston sports day for the ages - Adam Kaufman - Kaufman has a good article on yesterday's amazing come-from-behind wins by both the Patriots and the Red Sox.
Brady's late TD pass lets Patriots keep faith - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young writes that after their loss in Cincinnati last week, there were more than a few people starting to write the epilogue to Tom Brady's stellar career. At least, until the drive he pulled off for the win yesterday.
Patriots' offense stayed calm, cool on final drive - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer writes that after being given one more chance, Brady delivered in front of a half-full crowd at Gillette Stadium.
Saints gave Patriots one chance too many - Stephen Sellner - Sellner writes that the Saints couldn't run out the clock at the end of yesterday's game, and they gave Brady the opportunity he needed to pull off the win.
Given opportunity, Stevan Ridley carried run game - Peter Cappiello - Cappiello has an article on Ridley, who came up with a big afternoon yesterday.
Patriots struggling WRs hold on when needed - Mark Daniels - Daniels has an article on the Patriots wide receivers, who despite coming into yesterday's game with the second-most dropped passes in the NFL held on when it mattered most.
Stevan Ridley ends TD drought with pair of scores - Dan Ventura - Ventura has an article on Ridley, who made his first visit to the endzone on Sunday and reached it twice.
Borges: Tom Brady delivers when greats separated from everybody else - Ron Borges - Borges has a good read this morning on Brady, who Austin Collie saw wasn't shaking at the end of yesterday's game and said that kind of leadership "kind of rubs off on you."
Flood of injuries leaves Patriots gasping for players - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook and writes that the injuries the Patriots sustained late in the game made it a challenge to have the personnel to pull off the win.
Patriots' D-termination pays off - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that the Patriots performance defensively was impressive considering the heart of their unit, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, were both out of the line-up yesterday.
Buckley: That's a legendary Sunday - Steve Buckley - Buckley has a column on yesterday's amazing day in Boston sports after David Ortiz did what Tom Brady did, pulling off a come-from-behind win of their own as the Red Sox battled back and beat the Tigers in dramatic fashion.
Tom Brady guides late comeback to beat Saints - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that the 2013 Patriots story will be written by Tom Brady, who executed a football miracle in the second half of yesterday's win.
Pats TE's mom: Critics aren't in Gronk's shoes - Karen Guregian - Guregian has comments from Rob Gronkowski's mother, who says, "Robbie is dying to play".
Last-second drive worthy of a replay - Mike Reiss - Reiss has comments from several players on New England's last drive, with several players saying the team practices for moments like what happened at the end of yesterday's game.
Danny Amendola injures head - Field Yates - Yates writes that after suffering a big hit on an end-around late in the third quarter, Amendola suffered a head injury and didn't return.
Tom Brady’s Improved Passing, Aqib Talib’s Dominant Performance Among Five Takeaways From Patriots-Saints - Doug Kyed - Kyed looks back at yesterday's game and has his "Five Takeaways", including a coverage chart of New England's defensive backs in this game.
Patriots' revitalized pass defense - Matt Williamson - Williamson has an article on New England's pass defense, and wonders how far this group can take them.
Patriots Postgame Quotes - 10/13/2013 - Staff - The Patriots provide some quotes from several different players from last night, including Kyle Arrington, Austin Collie, and others in this entry.
The New England Patriots finally go fast in win over New Orleans Saints - Nick Underhill - Underhill writes that Tom Brady has wanted to go fast all season, but didn't have the vehicle and spent the first five weeks "locked in the garage". Until yesterday.
We'll lead off today's edition with three thoughts on this Tuesday morning:
1) Rob Gronkowski's potential return comes just in time - On the heels of yesterday's report about Gronkowski's potential return this weekend, fans are obviously looking forward to seeing him finally hit the field against the Saints this weekend. There's been plenty of discussion about the conflict surrounding his exact time frame on his return thanks to the reports in recent weeks by the Boston Herald, and it obviously made sense considering what he dealt with back in January after fracturing his arm for the second time. The weather conditions in Cincinnati last weekend were poor, so considering the dangers of playing in slippery wet weather having worked his way back from offseason back surgery, it wasn't the ideal time for him to play last weekend. The only downside is going to be the fact that having not played in a full NFL game for nearly a year, he's obviously going to be working with limited snaps this weekend and that's going to force the Patriots to use him sparingly as they try to keep up with one of the most prolific offenses in the league. Had he played even a handful of snaps this past Sunday, they could have potentially increased his workload this week. However, it's obviously more important that once he hits the field it's for the long haul, so hopefully all the precaution pays off. That being said it will be interesting to watch his snap count, which will force New England to have to pick their moments with him. Hopefully they're able to get the most from him as they can when he's out there.
2) Aaron Hernandez is the elephant in the room people seem to forget about - There's been a lot of discussion throughout the early part of this season about the fact that the Patriots have been undermanned on the offensive side of the football, and that the front office did a poor job of making sure Tom Brady had enough to work with this offseason during this point of his career. Looking at the roster on paper, this really is a pretty talented group of receivers led by Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, along with the rookies who are still developing. However, bringing them in was absolutely the right move because it injected speed and youth into a receiving core that before now didn't have any. For those who feel the Patriots personnel department left them hanging, they need to understand a couple key things. First, during the free agent period the team had no idea that Gronkowski would need back surgery (which reportedly took place in June), but more importantly they also had no idea that Hernandez would be in prison a few months later and charged with murder. It's hard not to realize that had Hernandez not put himself in this position, this team would have been completely different offensively and likely would have been more productive since his presence on the field would have opened things up for other players. New England went into the year with this new group with the understanding that they'd have their dynamic tight end duo to help carry the load until they settled in. Instead, both were gone, one temporarily and one permanently, and Hernandez' absence has been especially brutal because there wasn't anyone else to help ease the burden of Gronkowski's delayed rehabilitation. Either way, his loss was really a turning point heading into this season, and unfortunately they're still trying to adjust.
3) It's not time to "blow it up" just yet - You always knew this day would come at some point, but it's amazing to hear all the talk that after watching some of Brady's struggles recently, there are some who feel it may be time to trade the veteran quarterback and start looking to rebuild and plan for the future. Some point to his indecision and erratic throws, but that really seems to be a lack of confidence in who he's throwing to more so than a diminished skill set. One key that Brady has always been big on is not turning the football over, and despite the two botched snaps that he lost this year, he's not out there throwing the ball into double coverage and making bad decisions. The biggest issue is the fact it looks like he's not entirely sure of where each player is going to be on every single play since he is, after all, playing with pretty much a completely new group of guys than he was last season. Generally it's time to push the panic button when a team drops three or more games below .500 with no sign of improvement or hope for the future. They're no where near that point yet, so how there can even be a whisper of these ideas sort of defies logic.
GROGAN DISAGREES THAT BRADY'S SHOWING HIS AGE:
Staying on the same point mentioned above, former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan was asked in his weekly "Grogan's Grade" edition (now available) if he felt that Brady is "showing his age" after some of the inconsistent play we've seen recently. He disagreed, and feels it's more due to the lack of experience of who he's throwing to and doesn't feel his ability has dropped off.
"I don’t think so," said Grogan. "I think it’s more a factor of playing with some guys that he hasn’t been around for two or three years. He just doesn’t feel comfortable right now with what his receivers are doing, he doesn’t have a tight end that’s any kind of threat at all until Gronkowski gets back, and I think that’s just had to change the way he’s played. There’s no question he’s still got the ability. You don’t lose it from one year to the next that quickly."
FILED UNDER - THIS IS A BAD IDEA:
Considering the ire that fans have shown in recent days regarding Brady's play, let's just hope they don't resort to what happened out in Houston when angry fans went to Texans quarterback Matt Shaub's residence and reportedly berated him for his recent poor play.
According to CBS Houston one fan "told him off", with each of them leaving after police were called and they were gone before the authorities got there. It's understandable that they're frustrated, especially after watching Shaub throw a pick-six in a an NFL-record four consecutive games. However, that's just uncalled for, and hopefully no one in this region never reaches that point with Brady should he ever struggle badly.
MANKINS GETTING IT DONE IN THE RUNNING GAME:
The Patriots don't tend to run behind left guard Logan Mankins very often, but when they do they seem to have a fair amount of success. Looking at the running back chart in our stats database the Patriots have run behind him 16 times this season for 117 yards and a touchdown, while averaging 7.3 yards-per-carry, which is the highest average out of all them. LeGarrette Blount is the player with the most carries over left guard, having carried 7 times for 68 yards (9.7 avg) and a score. Next is Stevan Ridley with 5 carries for 30 yards (6.0 avg), followed by Shane Vereen (2 carries, 12 yards, 6.0 avg) and Brandon Bolden (2 carries, 7 yards, 3.5 avg). New England has run the most this season behind left tackle, carrying 31 times for 150 yards, good for an average gain of 4.8 yards per carry.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Patriots should worry about Graham, Sproles - Ben Volin - Volin writes the Patriots have two big problems to deal with Sunday when the Saints come to Foxborough — one tall, and one short.
Graham is team's latest TE challenge - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer files his notebook this morning, which leads off with a bit on Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who has been a key contributor for the Saints this season.
ON FOOTBALL: Tom Brady was thrown off his game in Cincinnati - Ben Volin - Volin has his recap of what went down on Sunday following his weekly film review.
Reports hopeful on Rob Gronkowski return - Michael Whitmer - Whitemer talks about the reports on Tuesday surrounding the potential return of Gronkowski, with that question seemingly about to be answered this week.
Catching Up With Old Patriots Friends - Staff - The Globe has a slideshow looking at former Patriots and where they are now.
Scouting the New Orleans Saints - Erik Frenz - Frenz takes a closer look at the Saints, offering up some interesting stats in this piece.
Patriots' coaches brace for 5-0 Saints - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has notes from the conference calls from the coaches on Tuesday as they get ready to face New Orleans this weekend.
Notebook: Rob Gronkowski's return no done deal - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that while this weekend has been targeted for his return, Dr. James Andrews will still be in charge of the decision making process and will be involved in the final say.
Rob Gronkowski idea inaccurate - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that while Gronkowski's return will help the offense, it won't fix the drops and misfires that have plagued this team.
Catching up with former Patriots, Week 5 - Mike Reiss - Reiss has a look at former Patriots and what they've been doing with their new teams.
Kanorris Davis, Ja'Gared Davis clear - Field Yates - Yates writes that both players cleared waivers after being let go on Monday and are both free agents.
Getting Rob Gronkowski will help, but New England Patriots still have other issues to tackle - Nick Underhill - Underhill writes that getting the veteran tight end back will help the offense, but notes that he hasn't played in a game in 269 days, so even if he does play, he'll likely be eased back into action.
The Return of Gronk: take four - Rich Garven - Garven writes that no one expected Gronkowski to play in the Patriots first two games of the season, but having him return in week 3 - as many had thought would be the case during preseason - turned out to be nothing more than chatter.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
FARINELLA: No time to panic over Pats - Mark Farinella - Farinella has his "ponderous thoughts", which leads off with the fact that despite the 13-6 loss in Cincinnati Sunday, he's not ready to panic, even if the 5-0 Saints come into Foxboro and lay a world of hurt on New England this weekend.
Patriots still in search of themselves - Kevin McNamara - McNamara writes that five games into the NFL season, the Patriots may sit atop the AFC East with just one loss but they remain a team searching for an identity.
Gronk's return will help, but won't be a cure-all for the Patriots - Glen Farley - Farley writes that the return of Gronkowski will be good for an offense that bordered between inept and invisible in their loss on Sunday.
Some positive news on this Tuesday, with ProFootballTalk.com reporting that Rob Gronkowski is expected to be cleared to play, and will likely see his first game action Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
This comes following a long offseason where he's undergone multiple surgeries on the forearm he initially fractured last November, and later refractured during the Patriots' Divisional playoff win over the Texans, as well as back surgery.
As a result it's been a long road for the veteran, who has worked hard at getting himself back into football shape. There have been multiple reports surrounding his availability in recent weeks, but he still hasn't seen action despite his participation in New England's practice sessions. Each time when questioned, Gronkowski had reiterated to reporters that he would come back when "the time was right," and it appears after this report, that the target could indeed be this weekend.
The website reports that Dr. James Andrews will make the final call on the tight end's health before a decision is made regarding his availability for Sunday, citing a source.
The players are currently off today, and will begin their preparations for the weekend beginning on Wednesday.
Looking back at Sunday's loss to the Bengals it's hard not to take notice of one of the most pivotal points in the game, and you have to give Cincinnati a little credit for doing something that the Patriots had been known for themselves.
The play came in the third quarter, when New England had the Bengals backed up at their own two yard line following an eight yard sack by Jerod Mayo and Tommy Kelly. The Patriots had seemed to be grabbing some momentum, and had Cincinnati facing a 3rd-and-15 from their own two yard line.
But the Bengals turned the tables on New England, turning up the pressure at the right time by going to a quick count which caught the Patriots off guard, and Andy Dalton hit Marvin Jones on a 28 yard pass that extended the drive and ultimately led to a touchdown for the Bengals, the only one of the afternoon.
It was a frustrating moment and to add insult to injury, coming into the game, New England hadn't allowed an opponent to convert a 3rd-and-more-than-10 attempt all season, having stopped opponents 12 times in that situation. But the one they allowed Sunday will be the one that will haunt them, and Belichick admitted on Monday that the fact Cincinnati took a chance and ran a quick play was something they simply just weren't prepared for.
"It's a play that we've dealt with before," said Belichick during his conference call. "The other team is in a long-yardage situation, just goes on a quick count, like Cincinnati did, and just runs everybody down the field. We've seen it through the years, [it's] not anything that's revolutionary. But they did a good job of it, they got set, they snapped the ball quickly.
"We definitely weren't set when the ball was snapped. We had a few guys moving into position and I would say, mostly we got into position but obviously it wasn't good enough. It was a good play on their part and it was not a good play on our part. But I think it was definitely a strategical play that worked for them. They caught us on it. Nothing illegal about it, everybody on their side was set. We just weren't ready when the ball was snapped and they hit us on it."
Had they stopped them, New England may have ended up in good field position since had the Bengals punted from their own two yard line, it likely would have given the Patriots the ball at midfield. Instead the Bengals did something else that the New England's defense hadn't allowed all year. They ripped off a 28 yard run on the next play, which then put the ball into Patriots territory. Prior to that play the Patriots hadn't allowed a run by a running back all season longer than 13 yards, and like the play before, it ended up being a big one because it really put New England on their heels and they couldn't stop them.
From there Brady and the Patriots offense were forced to watch from the sidelines as Cincinnati held the ball for nearly eight minutes, and it ended aftere BenJarvus Green-Ellis did something New England failed to do on their ensuing drive, and that was punch the ball in from one-yard out for a touchdown.
"We just weren't well enough prepared for it," said Belichick on the quick count the Bengals ran. "It obviously wasn't well coached on our end. That's my responsibility. We should have been better prepared for it, but at the same time, we've dealt with no-huddle, quick-snap offenses from the first day of training camp, the first preseason game and all the way through the year. So quick snaps and being ready to go and all that, that's always part of the game. That was really the issue on it, just being set and being ready to play."
Overall it's not like the Bengals had a lot of success on third down, as they converted just 6-of-15 (40%) on the afternoon. Unfortunately New England ended up being that much worse after going 1-for-12, with Brady and the offense coming up empty for the most part. He was 5-for-9 passing on 3rd down on the afternoon, but only had one conversion, which came in the second quarter. They had zero in the second half on Sunday.
"Because we sucked on third down, we just really could never get them into a situation where they started playing defensively," Brady said Monday during his weekly appearance on WEEI. "They were able to really do whatever they wanted with us and we played totally on their terms all day because of our lack of ability to convert on third down."
Hopefully that works out a little better this week against New Orleans.
KNOCKED OUT OF THE LEAD:
Coming into Sunday's game, Julian Edelman had been tied for the league lead in receptions, but three receivers are now ahead of him in the standings. After last night's performance where he caught eight passes against the Jets, Jones now has 41 catches on the season and lead's the NFL, followed by Houston's Andre Johnson and New Orleans' tight end Jimmy Graham, who are both tied with 37. Edelman was held largely in check by the Bengals, hauling in just two passes on seven targets. He now has 36 catches for 354 yards and two touchdowns, as well as a team leading 16 first downs.
NO LUCK THROWING DEEP ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE FIELD:
After updating our Patriots stats database, it's interesting looking at the receiving chart. So far this season Brady's thrown to the deep part of the field on the right side nine times this season, and has yet to complete a pass to that zone. The players targeted by attempt are Aaron Dobson (4), Kenbrell Thompkins (2), Josh Boyce (1), Danny Amendola (1), and Shane Vereen (1) round out the list of guys who have come up empty. New England was 0-for-2 on attempts there on Sunday against Cincinnati, with Amendola and Dobson each targeted once.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Callahan: Tom Brady will rise again - Gerry Callahan - Callahan has a column this morning on Brady, who he writes from the outside looks like a bad year but those of us who watch him in New England know that's not really the case.
Patriots report card: Grades are offensive - Ron Borges - Borges has his weekly report card, and has some harsh comments for the receivers and offensive line from Sunday's game.
Conversion disorder - Jeff Howe - Howe looks at New England's third down issues on Sunday, including the fact the Patriots failed to connect to anyone other than Brandon Bolden yesterday.
Passing-game woes really are a team effort - Zuri Berry - Berry writes that Brady got little help from his receivers on Sunday, who accounted for six drops in the 13-6 loss to the Bengals.
Brady hopes to rebound with 'best game' - Jeff Pini - Pini writes that Brady hopes to rebound on Sunday against New Orleans this weekend after Sunday's loss in Cincinnati.
Bill Belichick: Patriots let chances slip away - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young has comments from Belichick on Monday where the coach admitted that the team had their chances but couldn't quite make enough plays.
Dennard court date continued to Nov. 13 - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young writes that Alfonzo Dennard's court date was moved to November 13th, five days before their Monday night game against Carolina.
Patriots re-sign CB Cole, waive two - Shalise Manza Young - In this entry she notes that the Patriots have re-signed Marquice Cole, and Kanooris Davis and linebacker Ja'Gared Davis have been waived.
Getting to know the Saints - Field Yates - Yates takes an early look at the Saints, giving us a glimpse at the Patriots upcoming opponent.
Punter Ryan Allen was one positive Sunday - Field Yates - Yates looks at the performance of Ryan Allen, who did a good job keeping the Bengals in poor field position on Sunday.
Early season loss leaves Patriots at familiar crossroads - Christopher Price - Price looks back at past seasons and notes that the Patriots aren't strangers to losing tough games during the first half of the season.
Tom Brady Unhappy With Patriots Lack of Execution on Offense - Luke Hughes - Hughes has comments from Brady during yesterday's weekly interview with WEEI, with Brady saying they need to start playing at a higher level.
Patriots' loss to Bengals a real third downer - Rich Garven - Garven has an article on how the team played on third down yesterday, along with some of their other issues.
You could almost see what happened yesterday coming from the beginning of the game.
Cincinnati's defense got to Tom Brady on the second play of the game, taking him down for an 8 yard loss and setting the tone for an afternoon where the Bengals defense spent the day disrupting an offense that is still in a weakened state. Better yet, they kept it on the sidelines as Cincinnati held the ball for 34-minutes, leaving Brady as a spectator and preventing him from ever having a chance to get into a rhythm.
They hit him early and often, and put the offense in long yardage situations on nearly every third down. They faced 3rd and 7 or more on 8 of their 12 third downs, with their only first down conversion coming on a 3rd and 3 just minutes into the second quarter (a 14-yard run by Brandon Bolden). On two of their short yardage situations, they sacked Brady for an 8 yard loss (a 3rd and 2 on New England's second drive), and forced an incompletion on a 3rd and one from the Bengals' one yard line in the fourth quarter, which was the only drive they even sniffed the end zone.
The execution just wasn't there, and despite getting Danny Amendola back in the line-up the Patriots looked worse on Sunday than they've looked all season, which sends them back to the drawing board on a week where they'll start preparing to face one of the most prolific offenses - and quarterbacks - in the league in Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
"It wasn't our best day execution[wise] today," said Brady after the game. "I thought we, we certainly had some opportunities there in the first half that we didn't take advantage of. We just had too many times where we...one negative play and [it] really took us out of field position. It just wasn't very good execution and hopefully... It's a very good defense, I give them a lot of credit, they put a lot of pressure on you in a lot of areas. So our execution needed to be really good and it just wasn't."
It certainly wasn't their best peformance, and of their 12 possessions, the Bengals held them to six or less plays on nine of them, with New England having only two drives all afternoon where they held the ball for longer than three minutes. On the other side the Bengals had three drives of over 10 plays, the final one delivering the knock out blow after Cincinnati put together a 14 play drive that began on their own three yard line, marching 97 yards for a one-yard touchdown run by former Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to put the Bengals up 13-3 early in the fourth quarter.
The main reason why they couldn't get anything going was the Bengals' pass rush, which sacked Brady four times Sunday and registered an unbelievable eight quarterback hits. It had Brady struggling to look downfield and find an open man, and New England ended up with a lot of passes that were near misses because he couldn't step into the throws and put it where he needed to. The biggest came on New England's lone potential scoring drive where the normally reliable Julian Edelman couldn't quite haul in a pass in the end zone from Brady that was in his hands, but with a Bengals defender right on him, he just wasn't able to hold on.
"They've got a good rush," said Brady. "I said earlier in the week how capable all those guys are in rushing the quarterback and forcing you into some quick throws, throws you don't want to make and that's why they're a good defense. Because they rush, they cover, they've got good athletic linebackers, so you need to stay balanced against a team like that. Like I said, we had our opportunities, we just couldn't take advantage of them."
The worst part is New England squandered a strong performance by their defense, which was without Vince Wilfork yet still managed to hold the Bengals to just 13 points. Those are performances that New England needs to take advantage of, and this will likely be one of those games that they'll be frustrated that they let get away from them.
"Well, they've been playing great all year," Brady said of the defense after the game. "You can't kick two field goals and expect to win many games in the NFL. So we can do a lot better job than that. We're going to have to if we want to win these games. We just can't ... silly execution errors and mental mistakes ... it's hard to drive the ball down the field if you're always making mistakes."
Now they'll spend the week trying to pick up the pieces and start working on getting ready for New Orleans. The Saints are averaging over 26 points per game and will likely be the Patriots biggest test of the season defensively. However, Brady will also be going up against a defense led by coordinator Rob Ryan, who has the Saints sitting at number four in points-per-game. While the Patriots are now ranked number two in that category themselves, they're not going to win if they can't score. Hopefully they're able to fix that this weekend.
FIRST DOWN A PROBLEM FOR TOM BRADY SUNDAY:
One area that has been a problem for Brady this season has been his struggles throwing the football on first down. Coming into Sunday's game he had been 32-of-58, completing just 55% of his passes. Against Cincinnati he was just 5-of-17 (29%). They were in 2nd-and-10 on 10 of the 21 second downs they faced on Sunday, with one conversion from that distance. Brady talked about the lack of execution during the game, and that's certainly an area that was an issue Sunday.
SOME NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
1) As pointed out by our friend Sean Glennon via Twitter on Sunday, yesterday's performance by Brady saw him eclipse the 46,000 yard milestone for his career, with Brady becoming only the ninth quarterback in NFL history to reach that mark.
2) Before yesterday Brady had never lost to Cincinnati, and had scored over 30 points during his four victories. Obviously they were no where near that yesterday. He's now 4-1 lifetime against them.
3) Ben Volin pointed out via Twitter yesterday that while Brady is no longer undefeated against the Bengals, he's still perfect against eight other NFL teams, including Atlanta (4-0), Chicago (3-0), Dallas (3-0), Detroit (3-0), Jacksonville (4-0), Minnesota (3-0), Philadelphia (3-0), and Tampa Bay (3-0).
4) He also pointed out that prior to Sunday the Patriots had lost every coin toss, and on Sunday not only did they win, they did something they haven't done since Week 1 of 2008, they elected to receive. That was the game where Brady tore his ACL, and they had deferred 38 straight times prior to yesterday.
5) Christopher Price of WEEI noted Sunday that the Patriots were held to their lowest point output since 2009 against the New York Jets, which was a 16-9 loss.
6) Considering the Patriots 1-for-12 performance on third down Sunday, it's hard not to notice another streak that came to an end. Coming into Sunday's game Brady had been a perfect 11-for-11 targeting wide receiver Julian Edelman in that situation, including 7 first downs and two touchdowns. On Sunday he was 0-for-2 looking his way. He had also been 7-of-8 to Amendola, with 7 first downs during their week one win in Buffalo, and was 0-for-1 this time around. Instead he was perfect throwing to Brandon Bolden in that situation, completing 5-of-5 passes, but only had one first down.
7) Aaron Dobson's 53-yard reception on Sunday was is now the longest pass play of the year for New England, eclipsing the 49 yard grab that Kenbrell Thompkins had last week in Atlanta.
8) The 28 yard 3rd quarter run by Bengals rookie Giovani Bernard was the longest allowed by the Patriots defense all season, and before that New England's defense hadn't allowed a rush by an actual running back longer than 13 yards all season, which came back in week one against the Bills. On Sunday they allowed two of 13 yards, including one by Green-Ellis on the Bengals' first offensive play of the game.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
ON FOOTBALL: Bengals' defense simply dominates Patriots - Ben Volin - Volin looks at yesterday's loss and writes that the final drive of the game let Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry know that he was in Tom Brady's head.
Tom Brady rues defeat, not end of his streak - Christopher Gasper - Gasper has his column this morning and writes that death, taxes, and TB12 touchdown passes were all certainties, until Sunday's loss.
Patriots tamed by Bengals in season's first loss - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young looks at Sunday's loss, as the Patriots fell short of being able to force overtime.
5 takeaways from the Patriots-Bengals game - Zuri Berry - Berry has his takeaways from Sunday's loss, and writes that offensive inconsistency is the new norm.
Belichick short of words after Patriots first loss - Zuri Berry - Berry writes that Belichick had little to say following Sunday's game, although he didn't mince his words either.
Bengals' Chris Crocker, teammates were in control - Mark Schmetzer - Schmetzer writes that all the Bengals heard all week was, "Tom Brady, Tom Brady," and they were frustrated that they weren't talking about them.
Play of the game: Bengals power play - Rory Glynn - Glynn looks at the Bengals' lone touchdown drive, where BenJarvus Green-Ellis pounded the ball in from the Patriots one yard line, delivering the knock out blow to New England Sunday.
Borges: Patriots get pushed around - Ron Borges - Borges has his column on yesterday's loss, and writes that yesterday's result is painfully similar to other games where when a dogfight breaks out, it's usually the Patriots who end up in the fetal position.
Danny Amendola yard shy in return - Rory Glynn - Glynn writes that Amendola's return was one of the only rays of sunshine for the Patriots on Sunday.
Tom Brady not so terrific - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that Sunday's performance by Brady has been so good for so long, that there's a certain expectation when he steps under center and he was no where near it Sunday.
Patriots notebook: Knee forces out Tommy Kelly - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with the knee injury to Tommy Kelly, which he writes Kelly will be "all right" after his injury scare on Sunday.
Tom Brady, Patriots offense drowned out in Cincinnati - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that Sunday's game resulted in a comeback they couldn't finish, mostly because they struggled all day to get anything started.
Best & Worst from Pats-Bengals game - Herald Staff - In this report the staff has a group of categories and has an interesting take on the game.
Rain to blame for a losing game - Chris Letourneau - Letourneau quotes Milli Vanilli's "Blame it on the rain", which he feels was relevant for yesterday's loss.
Brady, Patriots' offense knocked for loop - Mike Reiss - Reiss looks at Sunday's loss and writes that the fact the Bengals were able to get after Brady early while also forcing turnovers left made it a rough afternoon for New England's offense.
Defense not satisfied with job well done - Field Yates - Yates has an article on the defense, which he writes despite a solid effort wasn't happy with how they played on Cincinnati's touchdown drive.
This time, Patriots' safe call on fourth-and-2 was telling - Mike Salk - Salk has a column on New England's 4th and two call on Sunday, and writes that it's a down and distance Patriots fans have become all too familiar with.
What we learned: Offensive inconsistency plaguing Patriots - Christopher Price - Price has his "What we learned" column for this week, and writes that the Patriots many not face a better defensive front all year.
Tom Brady Struggles More Than Receivers, Alfonzo Dennard Not Targeted Among Five Takeaways From Patriots-Bengals - Doug Kyed - Kyed has a good read this morning with his thoughts from yesterday, while noting that the Bengals didn't target a receiver who was matched up against Alfonzo Dennard Sunday.
LAWRENCE EAGLE TRIBUNE:
Message to Gronk: See you on Sunday? - Bill Burt - Burt writes that he's tired of seeing the Dunkin Donuts commercials for Rob Gronkowski and would like to see him get on the football field because his team really needs him.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
FARINELLA: Rain dampens Patriots' undefeated run - Mark Farinella - Farinella has his take on yesterday's loss, and writes that the carriage turned back into a pumpkin for the Patriots on Sunday.
Jim Donaldson: Pats' fans missing their points - Jim Donaldson - Donaldson ponders the good old days when the Patriots used to be able to score points, which was obviously a problem yesterday.
What a difference two weeks makes.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has obviously seen quite a change in his receiving core this season, and after a tough two weeks to start the year where it seemed to be a battle to get on the same page with his new targets, things have certainly improved.
Over the last two weeks Brady has seen his completion percentage jump up significantly, with the quarterback now having completed nearly 70% of his throws over the past two games, which considering they're still missing Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen, is pretty impressive.
Through the first two games Brady was 48-of-91 (53%) for 473 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He was also sacked four times. However, over the past two weeks he's gone 45-of-67 (67%) for 541 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, and he's been sacked three times.
The success rate with each of the two primary rookie receivers has obviously been a major factor in this turnaround, as he had a tough time getting on the same page with both early on. Through the first two weeks Brady and Kenbrell Thompkins connected on just 6-of-21 passes (29%), but in the last two weeks they've connected on 8-of-19 (50%) along with three touchdowns, including 6-of-11 for 127 yards and a touchdown Sunday night. It's hardly perfect, but it's definitely better than where they were a couple of weeks ago. Despite their struggles Brady has continued looking his way and you can clearly see Thompkins starting to gain confidence. That's good news for a player who after the first game seemed completely lost out there, and now seems to be settling into this offense.
Belichick talked about Thompkins during his weekly conference call on Tuesday, and had praise for the rookie.
"KT has been a real steady worker out on the field, every day working hard, always really trying to compete and improve," said Belichick. "He's got a good skill set, his work ethic, his competitiveness, his toughness, all those things have been good and they just keep getting better every day."
"We've asked him to do some different things and get him some different responsibilities and he studies it, learns it. If he makes a mistake, he corrects it and comes back and gets it right. He's done a good job."
Aaron Dobson has seen quite a jump as well, having connected on 3-of-10 (30%) with Brady in week two in his first game action, but he's since connected on 8-of-13 (62%). His situation is certainly in question right now after suffering a neck injury Sunday night, although according to Nick Underhill of MassLive.com the MRI reportedly came back negative, which is good news. Now the only question will be whether or not he's ready to play Sunday out in Cincinnati, or if they'll keep him out for a week until their battle against New Orleans next weekend.
Meanwhile, one area that has improved significantly has been Brady's completion rate on third down, having connected on 19-of-32 (59%) passing along with 15 passing first downs during the first two weeks, but has since completed 13-of-19 (68%) with 9 first downs through the air, which is certainly a much better success rate than what they had experienced early on. The best part is when it comes to the rookies, it's been fairly solid over the past two games with Dobson (3-of-4 with 3 first downs) and Thompkins (2-of-4 with 2 first downs) both coming up big in those situations.
We're obviously only two games in so it's tough to get too excited. However, considering how the first two weeks transpired, it's hard not to at least be encouraged by how the past two weeks have gone. It's progress, and hopefully it continues.
WILFORK SENDS A HEART FELT MESSAGE:
Wilfork released a heart felt message following what was a successful surgery to repair his torn Achilles on Tuesday, and he's been touched by all the support he's received from the fans. "I just want to thank everyone for your support and encouragement," said Wilfork via Twitter. Bianca is making sure I see all of the comments. I wish I could respond to everyone. But please know your words are heard. One thing I know is I signed up to play football. I don't regret anything that has happened and there is no need to feel sorry about it. I've been blessed to only have had one surgery prior to today and that was in high school ... I know what signing up to play football means and I know the rewards and the risks. This is my job and I will switch positions for now and play the role of patient, but that is only temporary. I have so much confidence in our team and know they will do great and I will be right beside them, maybe not in uniform, but in other ways. Thanks again."
Definitely great to see him reach out to everyone, and here's hoping for a speedy recovery and a solid return in 2014.
CARTER SAYS THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
Former Patriots defensive end Andre Carter has heard from quite a few fans that hoped to see him back in Foxboro, but according to Carter he's O.K. with hanging out at home with his son.
GROGAN WEIGHS IN ON GRONK'S SITUATION
An interesting note in this morning's "Grogan's Grade", which is now available. In the piece Grogan talked about tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was reportedly cleared by the Patriots but seems to have reservations about potentially coming back too soon. Grogan said that back in the day, players didn't have that option, which he said speaks to how much things have changed from those days.
"That really is something you don’t hear about with the Patriots and of course, something you didn’t hear about years ago," said Grogan. "You just, if the team cleared you to play, you played. Nowadays everybody’s got their own doctors and people they talk to. So hopefully they’ll get this worked out, but it can be a divisive thing when the team doctors have cleared you to play and you decide not to play because your guy has told you not to. That’s not a good thing."
MCCOURTY VISITS LOCAL MIDDLE SCHOOL ON TUESDAY:
Every week recently we've seen Patriots players spending their off days visiting local schools and according to the Stoughton Patch Devin McCourty spent his off day on Tuesday visiting the O'Donnell Middle School as part of the Patriots' "Read Between the Lines," which is dedicated to the importance of reading and part of the team's "Celebrate Volunteerism." McCourty credited his mother with his reading ability, which considering how important it is to read his playbook he couldn't have done it without her and encouraged the students to do the same.
"My mother would stay on us all time," he told them, reportedly smiling as he did. "I stayed up on my reading, and I encourage you to keep up on reading."
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
An abbreviated version, however, here are this morning's top stories:
Patriots must decide what to do with Aqib Talib - Karen Guregian
Notebook: Pats put A.J. Green in sights - Karen Guregian
Marquice Cole back in the fold - Karen Guregian
Patriots must be patient with Gronkowski - Chad Finn
ON FOOTBALL: Patriots did things their way against Falcons - Ben Volin
Bengals will hit the Patriots from all angles - Ben Volin
NOTEBOOK: Vince Wilfork's surgery confirmed — by the Wilforks - Michael Whitmer
QB Watch: Patriots' Tom Brady - Mike Reiss
Checking in on Armond Armstead - Mike Reiss
Patriots' rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins showing improvement - Rich Garven
Patriots going forward without Wilfork - Glen Farley
Patriot Devin McCourty rewards Stoughton school for reading program - Nick Costa
Pats can extend what's been a lousy, terrible, awful week in Cincinnati - Jim Donaldson
Patriots Journal: Didn't take long for Thompkins to catch on - Paul Kenyon
New England Patriots Celebrate Reading at O'Donnell Middle School - Michael Hardman
Patriots re-sign S Kanorris Davis to the practice squad
With an off day on tap for the Patriots as they get set to resume their preparations for the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend, here are some thoughts on what so far seems to be a pretty quiet Tuesday:
1) The loss of Wilfork will likely have additional offseason implications - When you have a player like Vince Wilfork anchoring your defensive line, the Patriots have found themselves in relatively good shape up front thanks to the fact that Wilfork has been one of the most consistent players they've ever had at that position. The Patriots went into this season relatively thin on the defensive line, and part of their ability to deal with their lack of depth somewhat hinged on having Wilfork in the line-up. His presence forced other teams to spend time game-planning on how to handle him, with Erik Frenz of the Boston Globe pointing out that Wilfork drew double teams on 25 of his 51 snaps against the Buccaneers two weeks ago. The only fortunate thing about this situation is the fact that it happened now and not later in the season, which gives him the additional time to hopefully recover by the time training camp starts next year. However, expect the Patriots to now make defensive tackle a priority heading into April's draft and start planning for the future. One would hope that he'll come back strong, but Wilfork is set to be a free agent after next season and how he performs in 2014 will likely determine whether or not he's here beyond that. He's the only remaining defensive player from New England's championship years, and it's just another reminder of the fact that things can change at any moment.
2) The Patriots passing game made their biggest plays of the season Sunday night - Coming into Sunday's game against the Falcons the Patriots offense hadn't broken the 40 yard reception mark in the passing game all season, but they managed to do it twice in Atlanta. Kenbrell Thompkins had a 49-yard pass in the second quarter, while Julian Edelman had a key 44-yard grab on 3rd down in the fourth quarter. Their longest pass play prior to that game had been Aaron Dobson's 39-yard touchdown reception back in week two against the Jets.
3) No Rob Gronkowski talk this week - After last week's circus surrounding whether or not Gronkowski would be back for Sunday night's game against the Falcons, this week will be a little different. We'll be using the "we're only talking about the players who are here" mentality as it's safe to say at this point that there appears to be issues with the timeline surrounding his return, and some indications seem to point to the fact that he's targeting the New Orleans game as his potential return date. Either way, you won't see him mentioned here again after today until there's a definitive answer surrounding his availability to play. Especially after all the back and forth we saw last week with all the different reports that came out that ultimately proved meaningless.
4) Aaron Dobson's injury could open things up for Josh Boyce - According to Nick Underhill of MassLive, Dobson reportedly underwent an MRI on his neck on Monday, although there weren't any details released surrounding the severity of his injury. Should he be unable to play this weekend, that would be a tough loss for a Patriots offense that has already been thin at the receiver position thus far. However, as we mentioned yesterday it could force New England to get Boyce a little more involved in the passing game. Boyce showed the most promise we've seen from him all season, having hauled in two passes from Tom Brady, albeit one was nullified by a penalty. He spent most of the offseason coming back from a foot injury, which likely cost him a bit in terms of getting acclimated with the offense during the offseason. Fortunately he's looked pretty good in recent weeks, so hopefully we see him finally emerge as a player in this offense.
5) Patriots need to lock up Aqib Talib - Talib opted to sign a one-year deal over the offseason hoping he could potentially cash in with a big year this season, and so far the plan is working well both for him and the Patriots. He's tied for the league lead in interceptions with four, and he's also a big reason why they're 4-0 at this point. Bill Belichick praised him after Sunday's win and again on Monday during his conference call, so hopefully they'll be able to get him signed for the long-term. The tough part is it will obviously take both sides to get something done. As we know the secondary has been an issue in recent years and Talib has done a good job of stabilizing a group that already had some potential and seemed to simply be missing a key piece to bring it all together. Now it's just going to be up to the Patriots front office to try and keep it that way, provided Talib doesn't try and break the bank after the season is over.
SAINTS IMPRESS, DOLPHINS NOT SO MUCH MONDAY NIGHT:
With the Patriots set to face both teams in the coming weeks, watching Monday night's game between the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins was definitely an interesting contrast between two very different quarterbacks. Drew Brees was once again masterful in his execution and accuracy, leading the Saints to an impressive 38-17 victory over Miami. He finished the evening 30-of-39 (77% accuracy) for 413 yards and four touchdown passes, and was completely fearless regardless of the situation. One thing that stood out was the fact that New Orleans was 6-of-13 on third down, but they converted 3-of-5 (excluding kneeldowns) on plays where they faced 3rd and longer than 10 yards. Meanwhile Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will likely be kicking himself after last night's performance. He was single-handedly a big part of the reason why the Dolphins head back to South Florida with their first loss, having been responsible for four turnovers. He threw three interceptions and also had a huge fumble that ended up being a game-changing play and handed the Saints the momentum. Had he played better, it may have been a completely different football game.
KRAFT'S GRANDSON LIGHTING IT UP ON THE GRIDIRON:
It appears that some day when Tom Brady retires, it appears the Patriots could one day replace him with a family member. According to Yahoo! Sports Ben Rohrbach, Robert Kraft's grandson Harry Kraft is the starting quarterback for Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts, and recently had a big performance. Kraft recently completed 17-of-27 for 254 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for another during a 38-11 win over Groton school in front of his family. Kraft is the son of Patriots vice chairman Jonathan Kraft, and while he may not necessarily be the next Brady or an NFL prospect (at least not yet), it should be interesting to see where he ends up in the years to come.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
In a fix, Patriots plug hole on line - Jeff Howe - Howe looks at how the Patriots handled the absence of Vince Wilfork during Sunday night's win, and how they may deal with it moving forward.
Vince Wilfork's season done - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning, which leads off with the fact Wilfork's season is likely over.
Richard Seymour not an option - Ron Borges - Borges writes that for any fans hoping to see Richard Seymour return to Foxboro, don't count on it.
Patriots-Falcons: Five takeaways from the game - Jeff Howe - Howe has his five things from Sunday night's win over Atlanta, including the fact he believes that Aqib Talib is among the NFL's elite.
Don’t look for ex-Pats stepping in for Vince Wilfork - Gerry Callahan - Callhan has a snarky column this morning about the fact the Patriots won't be seeing guys like Seymour return anytime soon.
Tom Brady says Vince Wilfork will 'come back next year strong and as determined as ever' - Jeff Howe - Howe has comments from Brady, who believes his teammate will be back next season.
With Vince Wilfork out, Chris Jones fills huge void - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young files her notebook this morning and writes that rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones was active for the first time Sunday night and it ended up being a good thing he was available.
Belichick confirms Wilfork likely done for season - Robert Burgess - Burgess has quotes from Belichick's weekly WEEI appearance on "Salk & Holley" on Monday, with the coach confirming Wilfork's season is done.
Considering questions and concerns raised by Vince Wilfork's injury - Erik Frenz - Frenz looks at the loss of Wilfork, and what it means for the Patriots both from a schematic and personnel standpoint.
4-0 never looked so bleak for Patriots - Obnoxious Boston Fan - In this article despite the 4-0 start, injuries are certainly making the remainder of the season look challenging.
Brady: Wilfork's presence is unmatched - ESPN BOSTON - This piece has a transcription a portion of the interview Brady had on WEEI Monday, with comments on Wilfork, as well as some additional quotes about the status of Rob Gronkowski.
Patriots in good spot at 4-0 through quarter of season - Rich Garven - Garven writes that while not everything has been perfect for the Patriots through four games, their record is.
PATRIOTS: Looking at options with Wilfork out - Glen Farley - Farley looks at some of the personnel who could fill in for Wilfork now that he's likely lost for the season.
SouthCoastToday.com: Five things we learned from Sunday's Patriots game - Andrew Tornetta -Tornetta looks at the Patriots win over the Falcons and offers up his five thoughts, including the fact he believes New England's defense made a statement during the win.
PORTLAND PRESS HERALD:
Six points for Patriots, one big moment for Mainer - Mike Lowe - Lowe has an article this morning on Matthew Mulligan, pointing out that the University of Maine standout is believed to be the first Mainer to score a touchdown for the Patriots.
LAWRENCE EAGLE TRIBUNE:
Life without a legend begins today for Patriots - Hector Longo - Longo writes that fans likely looked to see what Ted Washington was up to upon learning that Wilfork was lost for the year.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s grandson is dominating as a high school quarterback - Ben Rohrbach - Rohrbach looks at Harry Kraft, the grandson of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who so far is having a great season for Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Big blow to Patriots - Mark Farinella - Farinella writes that Belichick confirmed what everyone feared Monday afternoon, and has reactions from Wilfork's teammates.
Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 4: Julian Edelman Approaching Wes Welker Territory - Christopher Price - Price has his edition of Brady's "confidence index" and writes that Edelman's 34 catches has him leading the team currently as he's been one of Brady's go to gus so far.
Tom Brady on Vince Wilfork: 'To Say We'll Miss Him is an Understatement - Christopher Price - Price has comments from Brady during the Monday night football broadcast, where Brady talked about the loss of his teammate.
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