Tag Archives: Rob Gronkowski

New England Patriots: Forget Gronk, Who Is This Leonard Johnson Guy?

Let me start by saying it was great to see Rob Gronkowski back on the field. There’s no doubt he made a big difference in the Patriot offense as they destroyed the Houston Texans 27-6 on Sunday Night Football. The win & Miami’s Monday night loss to the Giants gave New England the AFC East Division title once again.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady explains to the officials why the call should be against Houston (AP Photo/George Bridges)

Tom Brady was efficient (22/30, 255 yds, 2 TDs, 0 ints). Heck, he even helped the officials out with a call (see photo). James White continued to show promise, Danny Amendola was solid and, once again, Brandon LaFell had the drops (caught 5 of 8 passes)…but make no mistake, this game was…

All About The Defense One of 6 sacks as Brian Hoyer is brought down by Dominique Easley with help from Ninkovich. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

One of 6 sacks as Brian Hoyer is brought down by Dominique Easley with help from Ninkovich. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Yes, the offense put up 27 points against what was a surging Texan’s defense, but this was a game dominated by the Patriots D. There was never a time when you felt Houston could score enough points to win from their opening 3 and out to Tom Brady kneeling to kill the clock over the last 2 minutes.

Keshawn Martin (82) fumbles a punt during the second half (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Keshawn Martin (82) fumbles a punt during the second half (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Even when Keshawn Martin muffed a punt (this is beginning to become a habit) and Houston recovered the ball on the Patriots 22 with 10:32 left in the 3rd quarter there was no concern. New England was up 20-6 at the time and, despite their recent troubles with 14 point leads, you just knew this team would not blow another double digit lead.

Obviously Houston Coach Bill O’Brien had no confidence in his team’s ability to move the ball long distances when he ignored the opportunity for a chip-shot field goal and went for it on 4th and 4 at the Pats’ 15 yard line. An incomplete pass from Brian Hoyer to Nate Washington, who was covered by Leonard Johnson, and the D had done it again.

It’s easy to question the decision to chase points that early in the game, and I have to confess I did. The game was within reach and putting any points on the board would have given the Texans a lift with most of the second half still to play. He proved to be right though, as that was the last time Houston had an opportunity to score.

So, Who Is Leonard Johnson

Leonard Johnson, a  previously unknown cornerback, played 42 snaps (courtesy of Mike Reiss) and had a solid game as the #3 CB behind Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan.  The Texans were 0-3 throwing in his direction and he had one of the better break-ups in the game. Johnson  joined the team this week after being released by Tampa, and Bill Belichick jumped at the chance to bring him in and sign him to a 2-year contract.

Belichick is slow to give praise to any player, let alone one who had just joined the team, but he had this to say about the 4th year undrafted free agent:

“He worked really hard this week,” “It was a long week, a lot of extra work, a lot of extra meetings, some good competitive time on the practice field. Got to give him a lot of credit — he came in, learned and his teammates embraced it … .”

As the year started everyone had concerns about the Patriots’ secondary, but, to the surprise of all, it has been pretty solid through the first 13 games. Butler has had some great and some not-so-great games, Logan Ryan has grown into a sold #2 and now it looks like (I know, it was just one game) Johnson brought the final piece to the puzzle.

It’s Nice To Be Back On Top

Everything fell into place on this Sunday as the Patriots went from the #3 AFC seed back to #1, aided by Cincinnati and Denver losses. Once again they have control of keeping an important bye-week in the play-offs and home field advantage throughout. With 3 games left (Titans at Gillette next week, J-E-T-S and Dolphins on the road) they could, and should, finish with another 14 win season and a healthier team when they play the real games.

Game Notes:

It wasn’t all good news though, as the injuries continue to mount.

LeGarrette Blount was on his way to a big game before injuring his hip early (99 J.J. Watt) (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
LeGarrette Blount was on his way to a big game before injuring his hip early (99 J.J. Watt) (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

LeGarrette Blount (Hip), Devin McCourty (Ankle), Dominique Easley (Thigh) and Jonathan Freeny (Hand) had all left the field with injuries by the end of the game.

Blount is walking with the aid of crutches and is reportedly out for the season, Freeney has a cast on his hand and McCourty has a high ankle sprain. Easley was put on season ending IR Tuesday

  •  Jerod Mayo had his best game of the season, leading the team with 7 tackles
  • Defensive Lineman Akiem Hicks,  acquired in a trade from the Saints for TE Michael Hoomanawanui , was outstanding with 2 of the Patriots 6 sacks and was credited with 6 tackles.
  • Jabaal Sheard seemed to spend the entire game in the Houston backfield, as he had 2 forced fumbles, 3 QB Hits, 2 sacks and 5 tackles
  • J.J. Watt was a non factor except for one late hit on Tom Brady long after he had released the ball
  • The Patriots clinched a playoff spot for the 17th time in the 22 years Robert Kraft has owned the team.
  • This is the 7th straight year the Pats have made it to the postseason
Rob Gronkowski's 10th TD catch (Photo: Patriots.com Keith Nordstrom)
Rob Gronkowski’s 10th TD catch (Photo: Patriots.com Keith Nordstrom)
  • Gronkowski notched his 10th touchdown, marking the fifth time he’s done that in his career. That’s the most 10-plus touchdown seasons for a tight end in history (From Paul Perillo)

The Patriots have already had their trap game (Philadelphia) so should not let up as they take on the hapless Titans in Foxborough this Sunday

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The Silver Linings Playbook:  Patriots Edition

quarterback-tom-brady-of-the-new-england-patriots-reacts-to-a-play-picture-id499221526

With a score of 24-30, the 2015 New England Patriots’ chance at a perfect season came to a screeching halt in Denver. There were many reasons for this crushing and untimely loss.

The officiating was absolutely dreadful on both sides of the ball but seemed to really needle the Patriots with a bunch of phantom calls during crucial moments in the 4th quarter. Most notably, Rob Gronkowski was called for an outrageous offensive pass interference penalty, costing the Patriots a first down and a chance to keep an important drive alive. The play clock fiasco during the Bronco’s injury timeout during the final drive was as confusing as it was accurate. Communication between the officials to the coaches and the players was downright pitiful.

The defending Super Bowl Champions entered the game with several notable star players missing, specifically offensive weapons Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola. Whereas both teams lost crucial players during the game, the losses of Dont’a Hightower and Rob Gronkowski seemed to derail the Patriots considerably. Losing Hightower opened up the run game for Denver, which on a night of snowy conditions was a godsend for their young Quarterback Brock Osweiler.  Gronkowski going out with a scary knee injury not only sucked the wind out of the Patriot’s collective sails but removed the final clutch superstar Tom Brady had left to throw to.

Finally and most importantly, Brock Osweiler played well in the 4th quarter, as did the entire Denver Broncos team. Although it is unpopular to say, the truth is given the cast and the set of circumstances The Denver Broncos made the most of their favorable circumstances. The tide turned drastically when Patriots’ rookie wide receiver Chris Harper fumbled the punt return and placed Denver in a scoring position. Did the Broncos take advantage of some slanted penalties and questionable play calls by the Patriots? Absolutely, and had the shoe been on the other foot Tom Brady and company would have done the same.

This game was a gut punch to Patriot Nation, leaving many fans irate that a winnable game and a perfect season had slipped away. Where it is true, the perfect season is no longer on the docket for the Patriots, this game is far more than just a sickening loss. In fact, this game told us more about the 2015 Patriots squad than the entire set of undefeated games played prior to it. With Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner gone in free agency, NOBODY gave this Patriots defense, more importantly the secondary, much of a shot at even being average. Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty and especially Logan Ryan did a great job for the most part buttoning up Denver’s receivers Sunday night. Sure, Butler missed a few costly plays against Sanders but Logan Ryan all but eliminated Demaryius Thomas. Knowing that Logan Ryan is someone that can be counted on to remove a superstar receiver like Thomas from a game cannot be understated. This defense is formidable and an incredible asset, warts and all.

The Patriots offense has seen better days this year with the losses of Edelman, Amendola and Dion leaving unproven talents such as Chris Harper, Keshawn Martin and complimentary pieces like Scott Chandler and Brandon Lafell as primary targets. Still, even with this rag tag grouping (with the help of star Tight End Rob Gronkowski), the Patriots still scored 24 points over the best defense in the league. In fact, until Harper’s untimely fumble, the Patriots held on to a two score lead for considerable length of time. Rob Gronkowski’s role on Sunday can’t be understated, yet he still only one man and this offense stepped up when most teams would have crumbled to pieces.  The Offensive line, far from perfect was better than the Buffalo game and for the most part fairly sturdy as well. In the end, it took overtime to stop Sunday night’s bruised and beaten New England Patriots and that was impressive.

new-england-patriots-patriots-tight-end-rob-gronkowski-pumps-his-fist-picture-id499274152

Ultimately, Julian Edelman should be back for the playoffs, both Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower and Danny Amendola will be back sooner than later, Rob Gronkowski’s injury was not nearly as bad as it looked, and the Patriots (in their current incarnation) are a tough as nails team which should survive their schedule and persevere until most of the pieces are back in the puzzle box. The Denver loss on Sunday night will not define this Patriots’ season anymore than an undefeated streak was necessary for a Super Bowl Championship.

New England Patriots: Is Denver Tom Brady’s Achilles’ Heel?

Is it possible the Denver Broncos are Tom Brady’s achilles’ heel? Going into Sunday night’s match-up there was only one team in the NFL TB has a losing record against.  It may be hard to believe, but the best QB in NFL history is 6-7 against the Broncos, 5-5 in the regular season and 1-2 in the playoffs.

So, here it is. Sunday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver and Super Tom still has something to prove…one more mountain to climb. The big difference over past years is ( are you ready for this?)  Brady may have a mediocre/poor game and the Patriots still should win. I know, Denver has a great defense…but this year so do the Patriots.

D-E-F-E-N-S-E

The Patriots have allowed the fewest points-per-game (18.2) in the NFL while the Broncos are 18th in scoring (22.2). When you realize how many of the points scored against New England’s defense were in garbage time,  after games were already decided, the figure is decidedly lower.

Meanwhile, the always tough Denver defense is just behind NE, allowing a measly 18.3 PPG of their own.  Yes, the Patriots are 2nd in scoring (32.3), but the days of rolling up points look to be over with a depletion of skill players on offense due to injuries. Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson will be among the missing (Dobson for the year) leaving Brady with limited options in the passing game. Sure, he still has Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell, but after that there are a bunch of question marks.

Home Field Advantage

Big Edge: Denver

1960 Patriots vs Broncos (Photo: sportspaperinfo.com
1960 Patriots vs Broncos (Photo: sportspaperinfo.com

The Patriots are just 9-19 in Denver since the two teams first met in 1960.  Ah yes, I remember it well, a 13-10 Denver win. (The long-term memory is fine, it’s the short-term that’s a killer).

Here’s a scary stat (courtesy of WEEI’s Chris Price): .842 — Including the postseason, that’s the winning percentage for the Broncos in their last 19 home games against the Patriots (since 1969). Denver is 16-3 in those games.

Yeah, I know. Different year, different players…but still, it has to be on Tom Brady’s mind. He absolutely hates to lose with a passion that is unequaled. I know everyone hates to lose, but he takes it to a new level.  Just a few weeks back he was pounding the ground in anguish when he was sacked and felt it was his fault…and the Patriots won that game easily!

The fire in Tom Brady after getting pulled down in 36-7 win over the Dolphins (photo: Darren Mccollester/Getty Images
The fire in Tom Brady after getting pulled down in 36-7 win over the Dolphins (photo: Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Why The Patriots Should Win

Despite the advantages the Broncos have, as listed above, the Patriots are still favored, although by a very slim margin…and the reasons are:

  • Tom Brady vs Brock Osweiler (No Brainer)

Brady showed his emotion repeatedly in last weeks win against the Bills, and his teammates would rather not face his wrath two weeks in a row.

“I was pretty agitated all night,” Brady told WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan Show, via Boston.com. “For three hours and 20 minutes, I was pretty agitated.”

James White had two TDs against the Bills despite limited touches (Photo: Fansided.com)
James White had two TDs against the Bills despite limited touches (Photo: Fansided.com)
  • More action from James White, who was clutch despite limited touches, in last week’s win over Buffalo. His snap count should increase with a reduction in touches by LeGarrette Blount.
  • The offensive line has to be better (couldn’t be any worse) as the walking wounded continue to return and the revolving door slows down. The Patriots have used 25 offensive line combinations this season, most in the NFL (Mike Reiss)
  • Bill Belichick vs Gary Kubiack (Another No Brainer)
  • Rob Gronkowski is due to have a breakout game. Denver now has Vernon Davis, who had his best game of the year last week, and Gronk won’t take kindly to being outplayed on national TV

Both teams are looking forward to this one. Here are a few pre-game quotes from the Bronco’s camp:

“It will be fun—Sunday Night Football, undefeated team coming in. It will be a lot of fun. It’s great playing against [Patriots QB] Tom [Brady], though. He’s a great competitor.”
– Broncos CB Aqib Talib

They’re really physical. Their defensive line—they’ve been causing a lot of chaos for quarterbacks. They’ve been getting to the quarterbacks. I think [Patriots DE] Chandler Jones  is over 10 sacks at this point in the year. I think they just play extremely hard. They know their scheme inside and out and they execute their scheme.”
Broncos QB Brock Osweiler

Prediction

Patriots squeak out a tough win and go to 11-0

Patriots 21 Broncos 17

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Patriots vs Bills Preview

THE 9-0 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS WILL BE HOSTING THE 5-4 BUFFALO BILLS MONDAY NIGHT AT GILLETTE STADIUM FOR THE SECOND MATCHUP OF THE YEAR BETWEEN THE TWO TEAMS.

IN WEEK 2 THE PATRIOTS DEFEATED THE BILLS 40-32 IN A GAME THAT DIDN’T SEEM AS CLOSE AS IT LOOKED ON THE SCOREBOARD. THE PATRIOTS LED AND CONTROLLED THE TEMPO FOR PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRE GAME. TOM BRADY DID TOM BRADY THINGS THROWING FOR 466 YARDS AND 3 TOUCHDOWNS AGAINST A GOOD REX RYAN COACHED DEFENSE THAT CAME OFF A BIG WIN AGAINST INDIANAPOLIS THE WEEK BEFORE. TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI ALSO HAD A BIG GAME IN HIS HOME COMING GAME AGAINST THE BUFFALO BILLS HAULING IN 7 RECEPTIONS FOR 113 YARDS AND A TOUCHDOWN. FOR THE BILLS THEIR QUARTERBACK TYROD TAYLOR, WHO WAS ONLY MAKING HIS SECOND CAREER START, PLAYED VERY WELL BOTH PASSING AND RUNNING THE BALL AGAINST THE NEW ENGLAND DEFENSE WHICH HELPED BRING HIS TEAM BACK LATE IN THE FOURTH.

NOW IN WEEK 11 SOME THINGS HAVE CHANGED SINCE WEEK 2, NO DION LEWIS OR JULIAN EDELMAN FOR THE PATRIOTS AMONGST MANY OTHER INJURIES FOR THE TEAM INCLUDING LINEBACKER JAMIE COLLINS WHO LOOKS LIKE HE IS GOING TO MISS HIS THIRD STRAIGHT GAME WITH AN ILLNESS. FOR THE BILLS, THERE NOT GETTING THE SAME CONSISTENT PLAY OUT OF THEIR QUARTERBACK TYROD TAYLOR AS THEY ONCE DID, HAVE HAD DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES AT POINTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, AND HAVE ALSO DEALT WITH INJURIES TO PLAYERS INCLUDING PERCY HARVIN AND LESEAN MCCOY WHO HAS MISSED TIME THIS YEAR.

A KEY FOR NEW ENGLAND THIS GAME WILL BE TO GET SOME GUYS BACK FROM INJURY, ESPECIALLY ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE. THE OFFENSIVE LINE HAS PLAYED PRETTY WELL SO FAR EVEN WITH ALL THE INJURIES BUT AFTER LOSING ANOTHER KEY PIECE TO THE OFFENSE IN JULIAN EDELMAN, HAVING A HEALTHY OFFENSIVE LINE AND GIVING TOM BRADY MORE TIME TO HOLD ONTO THE BALL AND MAKE A DECISION WILL BE CRUCIAL.  ANOTHER KEY TO THE GAME THIS WEEK FOR THE PATRIOTS WILL BE TO COVER BILLS TIGHT END CHARLES CLAY. THE PATS HAVE BEEN HORRIBLE THIS YEAR IN COVERING OPPOSING TIGHT ENDS, MOST RECENTLY AGAINST THE GIANTS WILL TYE, WHO I NEVER EVEN HEARD OF BEFORE LAST WEEKS’ GAME. CLAY HAS GOOD SIZE AND GOOD SPEED AND GOOD SIZE AND CAN MAKE DEFENSES PAY IF YOU LEAVE HIM OPEN IN THE FIELD. ANOTHER KEY TO THE PATRIOTS DEFENSE WILL BE TO NOT ALLOW TYROD TAYLOR TO ESCAPE THE POCKET, TAYLOR IS MORE DANGEROUS RUNNING THE BALL THAN HE IS THROWING THE BALL AND IS DANGEROUS WHEN THROWING ON THE RUN, BUT DOESN’T HAVE GREAT POCKET PRESENCE. IF YOU CAN KEEP HIM IN THE POCKET AND CAN GET THE LEAGUES LEADER IN SACKS IN CHANDLER JONES GET AFTER HIM IT WILL CERTAINLY RATTLE TAYLOR AND FORCE HIM TO MAKE MISTAKES.

FOR BUFFALO IT WILL BE TO GET TAYLOR OPEN ROOM TO MOVE, WHETHER IT BE IN FRONT OF OR BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, HE CAN BE SCARY WHEN HE WAS ROOM TO MOVE WITH HIS ARM STRENGTH AND SPEED. ANOTHER WILL BE FOR THE BILLS DEFENSE TO STOP THE PATRIOTS MACHINE OF AN OFFENSE. EVEN WITH ALL THE INJURIES IT WILL BE A LOT HARDER SAID THEN DONE, AFTER EDELMAN LEFT LAST WEEK’S GAME DANNY AMENDOLA STEPPED UP IN HIS ROLE AND CAUGHT 10 BALLS FOR 79 YARDS. THEN OF COURSE THERE IS THE BEST TIGHT END IN THE LEAGUE ROB GRONKOWSKI, BILLS CORNER STEPHON GILMORE CAME OUT THIS WEEK AND SAID THE TEAM HAD A GAME-PLAN TO TAKE GRONK OUT OF THE GAME. THEY SAID THE SAME THING LAST TIME, THE BILLS HAVE TWO YOUNG VERY GOOD CORNERS IN STEPHON GILMORE AND ROOKIE RONALD DARBY BUT LET’S FACE IT, YOU CAN NOT STOP ROB GRONKOWSKI HE IS TOO GOOD OF A PLAYER TO BE STOPPED. AND THEN OF COURSE THERE’S TOM BRADY WHO’S JUST PLAYING OUT OF HIS MIND AND PLAYING THE BEST FOOTBALL OF HIS LIFE AT 38 YEARS OLD.

THE BILLS COULD MAKE THIS A GAME, BUT JUST LIKE LAST TIME THE SCOREBOARD WONT TELL THE WHOLE TRUTH. THE PATRIOTS WILL WIN THIS GAME IN GILLETTE WITH EASE FOR THE MOST PART OF THE GAME AND MOVE ON TO 10-0.

 

New England Patriots: The Survival Of The Best Coached Team In The NFL

The NFL is a game of attrition and teams know that coming into every season. It’s not shocking when players start going down…and it happens to everyone. Some teams use injuries as an excuse and fall by the wayside. The best teams use a step-up mentality and overcome the adversity.
Dion Lewis went down for the season in the win against Washington (Photo Patriots.com David Silverman)
Dion Lewis went down for the season in the win against Washington (Photo Patriots.com David Silverman)

 Survival Of The Best Coached

Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick ( Photo: salemnews.com)
Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick ( Photo: salemnews.com)

To this point in the 2015 season the New England Patriots, with arguably the best coaching staff in the NFL,  have clearly  taken the second approach, and it has paid off with a 9-0 record.

All NFL teams are forced to  dig into their back-ups, make trades or move players around to help fill the holes created… and New England has done that with the best of them.  What seems to be the biggest difference between the Patriots and most other teams is (drum roll please) they always seem ready for everything, and that, my friends (I hope) is  all about coaching.

Bill Belichick has always liked players with versatility and, in  2015, it has paid off. As injuries piled up we’ve seen players we never heard of (alright, maybe a slight exaggeration) playing positions they  never played in the NFL!

  1. Offensive lineman goes down – plug-in a tight end
  2. Wide receiver out for a while, go to two and three TE sets and throw in the next man up
  3. Defensive line struggling against the run, adjust the personnel package

Doing It Again

Julian Edelman is out with a broken foot ala Dez Bryant of the Cowboys (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP))
Julian Edelman is out with a broken foot ala Dez Bryant of the Cowboys (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP))

So now the Patriots face another hurdle. How do you replace the unique qualities of Julian Edelman? The simple answer is: you don’t! Fans are once again bringing up names (remember Reggie Wayne?) of players who may be available. It’s time to take a deep breath and let Mr. Belichick and his staff do their thing.

Danny Amendola (Feature Photo: Patriots.com David Silverman) has played his best football since becoming a Patriot. No, he doesn’t play the slot, as Edelman does, but here’s where coaching steps in again. The ability to change on the fly has been unbelievable this season…and the Patriots will do it again.

Brandon LaFell is hard to take down once he has the ball (Photo Patriots.com David Silverman)
Brandon LaFell is hard to take down once he has the ball (Photo Patriots.com David Silverman)

Brandon LaFell is back close to 100%, Gronkowski is…well, Gronk, Scott Chandler needs to step up and make catches he’s supposed to (Chandler has just 13 catches for 137 yards and two TDs this season), Keshawn Martin is about ready to come back and has looked good in his short tenure and it’s time to fish or cut bait for Aaron Dobson.

Will The Patriots Still Roll Over Opponents?

Quick answer, probably not. To expect the team offense to continue to perform at their current level minus an offensive line (which returns some bodies this week, thank God), Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman is completely unrealistic. Yes, Tom Brady is Tom Brady, but you could start to see his frustration Sunday against the Giants.

He’ll move on, but his comfort level of always having Edelman there when things aren’t going right won’t be the same with Amendola.  He made that plain in this weeks press conference when he said “ Julian Edelmans just aren’t sitting out on the street or else they’d be playing for another team” As Mike Reiss quoted in an article on ESPNBoston.

Lewis had added something this area hasn’t seen since the days of Curtis Martin, an elusive running back who made tacklers miss. James White and Brandon Bolden don’t come close to filling that role.

Can The Injuries Continue To Pile Up

By December there are very few bodies that aren’t battered and bruised. Most players accept it and are able to play through the pain. Many  just can’t because of the severity of their injuries.

You also have the rookies, who hit a wall around game 12.  No sir, the NFL isn’t quite like college!

  • The intensity is higher (it’s a job now)
  • The players are better and more physical
  • The speed of the game is about twice what anyone saw or played against at their alma mater
  • …and you play more games

So, logic says there may be more decisions to be made as the second half of the season rolls along. Don’t hang me here, but 16-0 may be unachievable, yet, looking at the rest of the NFL the New England Patriots are still the Super Bowl favorites.

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New England Patriots: A Giant Mismatch? Not Quite.

New England Patriot fans worldwide were worried that the 8-0 season was about to show a “1” in the loss column. After all, these were the NY Giants that ripped the heart out of fans in two Super Bowls as Eli Manning outperformed Tom Brady…they were kryptonite to Superman. Hell, the ‘Gints were the only team in the NFL the Patriots hadn’t beat since 2008!

With the game played in MetLife Stadium, the Patriots offensive line still in shuffle stage and Jason Pierre-Paul confident he’d get to Brady to disrupt New England’s high-powered offense, an upset looked to be a given. Add in Odell Beckhams: ‘I’ve loved-hated the Patriots’ statement and you had the perfect setting for fans of the NY Giants…and then they started the game! It lived up to all the hype, as the final quarter determined the winner on the last possession as the clock ticked down. Patriots 27-Giants 26.

Patriots - Giants (Photo: Bing.com)
Patriots – Giants (Photo: Bing.com)

Scoring Streak Extended – First Quarter

Losing the coin toss (what’s going on here?) didn’t slow down the Patriots scoring streak as they drove 78 yards and ran off 14 plays in 8 minutes 25 seconds the first time they had the ball…culminating in a 1 yard TD pass to Scott Chandler. Split with 8 runs (including a 10 yarder by Tom Brady) and 6 passes, the TD extended New England’s scoring streak to 32 straight quarters, an NFL record.

It didn’t take Eli Manning and the Giants long to knot things up as the New York QB connected on an 87 yard TD pass to Odell Beckham Jr., who beat Malcolm Butler in single coverage as he scampered into the end-zone untouched. It was the longest offensive play ever against a Bill Belichick coached team.

After all the fireworks opening the game, things settled town with both teams going 3 and out before the Patriots took over on their 30 yard line with 3:29 left in the quarter. Following a short run by LeGarrette Blount, a 30 yard pass to Julian Edelman moved New England into NY territory as the quarter came to an end.

Another Quarter – Another Score

Edelman limped off the field with a broken bone in his foot, putting a big crimp in an already struggling offense. 3rd and 4 from the 8 yard line brought pressure up the middle, bringing Brady down with the 1st sack of the game. Stephen Gostkowski kept his perfect season alive with a 31 yard field goal, moving him into a tie for the most FGs in Patriot history and putting the Pats up 10-7.

The Giants proceeded to march down the field on their next possession before Manning was strip sacked by NFL sack leader Chandler Jones (10 1/2) and the ball was recovered by Justin Coleman at the Pats 16. With Edelman out of the game and the season long loss of Dion Lewis, the New England offense was stuffed. A critical Rob Gronkowski offensive pass interference call eliminated a 1st down and the Patriots were forced to punt from deep in their own end of the field.

After a 51 yard punt and an 11 yard run back the Giants had great field position on their own 46. After their drive stalled at the Patriot 19, Josh Brown hit his 19th straight field goal and the game was knotted at 10-10.

Reuben Randle grabbed a 31 yard pass from Manning at the Patriots 43 with a minute left in the half. Manning completed his 18th pass of the game to TE Will Tye and he rumbled to the 1 yard line. With 18 seconds left Eli lobbed a TD to a wide open Dwayne Harris and the Giants took at 17-10 lead into the second half.

Tom Brady vs Eli Manning

Manning had the most 1st half yardage of his career (251 yards) while completing 12 of 20 passes with two TDs. Brady, meanwhile, went 14-21 for 127 yards and 1 TD. History was rearing its ugly head as the Giants looked to continue foiling any bid New England had for a perfect season.

Eli Manning has stated he feels he is in the same class as Tom Brady (Picture handlebarmagazine.com)
Eli Manning has stated he feels he is in the same class as Tom Brady (Picture handlebarmagazine.com)

 The Streaks Continue In The Second Half

The Giants received the 2nd half kick-off and once again exploited the Patriots secondary, including an interference call against Patrick Chung and another (highly questionable) by Malcolm Butler.  The drive ended in a 38 yard FG by Brown (21 of 21) stretching the lead to 20-10, the largest deficit New England had faced this season.

Danny Amendola had a spectacular 82 yard punt return on their second possession of the second half as he brought the ball to the Giants 7 yard line. He was tripped up by a Patriot or would have had a TD. Blount ran it in from the 1 and the game got closer as the Patriots stretched their scoring streak to 34 quarters. Giants 20-Patriots 17

Josh Brown followed with a 53 yard FG, his 22nd of the season, putting the Giants up by 6, 23-17 as the 3rd quarter wound down.

Brady Turns The Ball Over

The Giants returned the favor they gave up in the 1st quarter with a strip-sack fumble of their own by Jasper Brinkley at the New England 39, but couldn’t capitalize on the turnover.  The Patriots defense stepped up, led by a Rob Ninkovich sack, and forced the Giants to punt keeping the game within one score.

Gronkowski with a big reception against the Giants in 27-26 win (Photo nydailynews.com)
Gronkowski with a big reception against the Giants in 27-26 win (Photo nydailynews.com)

The stop looked to be the turning point of the game, as the Patriots took over after the punt deep in their own territory. Gronk stepped up and caught the longest pass of his career with a 76 yard TD. The extra-point was good and suddenly New England was ahead 24-23.

Manning Magic…again

With the win staring them in the eyes, Tom Brady made his 3rd mistake of the quarter with a fatal interception at the Giants 1 yard line. Manning had his chance once again to stick a dagger in the heart of Patriot fans…and he did just that. On a 3rd and 3 he hit a wide open Harris for 30 yards at the Patriots 28…well within Brown’s range.

Butler strips TD catch in 4th quarter (Photo: cdn0vox.cdn.com)
Butler strips TD catch in 4th quarter (Photo: cdn0vox.cdn.com)

Another Manning to Harris pass put the ball at the Pats 5 with just over 2:00 left in the game. The Patriots caught a break when what was originally called a TD pass to Beckham was overturned on replay as Butler batted the ball out of his hands before he could establish possession. Brown kicked a 29 yarder with 1:47 remaining in the game and, once again, it would be a final possession game!

Brady Time?

Needing a FG to win and under 2:00 to go with no time outs the pressure was on. Brady, who lives for these opportunities,  was almost intercepted again but the ball hit the ground. Super Tom completed critical passes putting the Patriots at the Giant 37 with :06 left. Gostkowski was on the spot for a 54 yard game winning kick as NY called time out. The kick was good with 1 second left on the clock…and the Patriots remained undefeated, pulling out a hard fought 27-26 win.

Game Thoughts

  • After the game Brady commented “It always comes down to the end against them”
  • Although he was victimized by Beckham on the Giants 1st possession, Malcolm Butler played a solid game. His pass interference penalty was a bad call and he made a great play when he knocked the ball out of Beckham’s hands in the end zone in the 4th quarter.
  • The Giants came into the game with the worst TE defense in the NFL. They had done a decent job on both Gronkowski & Chandler until giving up the 76 yard TD in the 4th quarter
  • The Patriots entered the game as the least penalized secondary in the NFL, yet had 3 big interference calls
  • Brady fumbled twice and had an interception in the 4th quarter. The Patriots fortunately recovered his second fumble with over 9 minutes left in the game. That fumble was followed shortly by a 54 yard completion to Brandon LaFell at the Giants 15. His interception (3rd of year) came as the Patriots were looking to put the game away when Trumaine McBride picked him off at the 1 yard line with under 5 minutes to go
  • New York was 1 for 5 on TD attempts in the red zone
  • Jason Pierre-Paul had his 1st sack of the season called back on a hands-to-the-facemask call in the 4th quarter
  • The game ended with the Giants recovering a short kick and trying to pull off the miracle win as they shoveled the ball player-to-player before finally stepping out of bounds.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

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New England Patriots: Who’s Next In Line? A Salute To The Hard Hats.

Well, as hard as it may be to believe, we’ve reached the halfway point of the regular season…and the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots are 8-0 and have already run away and hid from their AFC East foes.

As far as games go, the always troublesome NY Giants are next in line for a Sunday afternoon joust in mid-November. That’s set in stone. The Giants have spoiled perfect seasons in the past and most of Patriot Nation will never forgive them. This is a new year, with both teams having rotated most of their roster, but the anger is still there. Hell hath no fury like a Patriot fan scorned as Eli Manning and Tom Brady square off once again.

Talking about things you don’t talk about

Chandler Jones leads the NFL in sacks with 9 1/2 after 8 games (Photo: NFL.com)
Chandler Jones leads the NFL in sacks with 9 1/2 after 8 games (Photo: NFL.com)

When you talk about teams in the NFL, it’s usually a good thing when you don’t mention their offensive line. I mean, come on, talk about boring. The less you hear about them the better, ’cause it means they are playing well, that’s a given. Much is written about the glamour positions – QB, WR, TE, RB, DE…hell even CB’s!

But what about those guys down in the trenches? You know, the lunch bucket crew. The hard hats. Without looking it up most fans cannot name 10 offensive linemen from all the other teams in the NFL. My old Patriots Beat partner, Jeff Kane, is the exception, but he’s strange that way! And that group of grunts (I say that with affection) actually like it like that. They are happy just doing their job, heading home for a nice cool one (or two or three) and enjoying their anonymity.

Saying that, it’s impossible to talk about the Patriots’ success in 2015 without mentioning the turmoil that continues to occur every game with the biggest surprise of this year (no, not Dion Lewis, but he sure will be missed) – the unbelievable success of the no names in front of Tom Brady. They started the season without some big cogs in the machine that is in charge of protecting the life of the best QB in the history of the NFL, and it got worse week by week.

Who’s next up in the revolving door that is the offensive line?

So, let’s see who is next in line, as the names keep changing, but the results remain the same. The original front five were expected to be chosen from this group (in alphabetical order):

David Andrews, Chris Barker, Marcus Cannon, Blaine Clausell, Dan Connelly, Cameron Fleming, Tre Jackson, Josh Kline, Shaq Mason, Nate Solder, Bryan Stork, Sebastian Vollmer & Ryan Wendell.

That’s a hearty mixture of 14 (as in fourteen) young and old bodies that should allow Bill Belichick to pick the chosen few for his game day roster each week, right? So, what’s the problem? Well, as the Patriots prepare for the Giants the majority of the names above have fallen aside, either through retirement (Connolly) or injury (Solder, Vollmer, Wendell to name the most obvious) leaving the available list mighty slim.

Undrafted free agent Dave Andrews is the only offensive lineman to played every snap this season (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Undrafted free agent center Dave Andrews (60) is the only offensive lineman to play every snap this season (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The team went into last Sunday’s game dressing six offensive lineman and by the end of the game the number had dwindled to five!

Tom Brady foolishly made the tackle after throwing an interception in the Patriots win over Washington (Photo: AP/Charles Krupa)
Tom Brady foolishly made the tackle after throwing an interception in the Patriots win over Washington (Photo: AP/Charles Krupa)

Yes, you read that right. Once Vollmer went out with a head injury, the Patriots had no available back-ups to protect (gulp) Tom Brady. You wonder why they went to the running game early in the second half and now you know. Thank God TEs Rob Gronkowski and Michael Williams are both solid blockers and LeGarrette Blount is a horse or we could be praying for Tom Brady’s recovery right now.

Based on all the injuries, rookies and the retirement of Connolly you would expect Brady to be getting pummeled in every game, but it just ain’t so my friends. The fastest gun in the NFL has been sacked 18 times while running 537 plays. Sure, we all cringe as the bodies fly around him each week and, heaven forbid, he throw an interception and foolishly decide it’s his job to bring down the interceptor…because in all honesty, he is the franchise.

New England Patriots Hard HatsSalute To The Hard Hats

So, it’s time for fans to step up and salute those unheralded hard hats that give up their bodies each week so that Mr. Brady can continue, at the “old” age of 38, with his best season ever in the NFL. The offensive line has done it with smoke and mirrors, along with great coaching by Offensive Line Coach Dave DeGuglielmo in his second season, after the retirement of longtime Patriots coach Dante Scarnecchia.

It’s not a pretty job, but someone has to do it (how’s that for original journalism) as the next in line steps up in the quest for another Super Bowl.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots: The New Tom Brady

Let’s start with stating the obvious, Tom Brady is not from this planet. He is a real life “Superman.”

Tom Brady is Superman

After Sunday’s 30-23 win over the New York Jets even the most skeptical Brady hater has to be in awe of the unhuman things he is doing in his 16th year as an NFL Quarterback. Brady literally took the team on his back and refused to lose. We all knew he didn’t need any help in passing the ball, but:

  • 10 (or more) drops and he still throws for 355 yards
  • 2 TDs
  • 0 interceptions
  • 1 rushing TD
  • If that’s not enough he also leads the team in rushing for the 1st time in his career…at the age of 38

C’mon fans of the Steelers, Jets, Colts, Ravens (and on and on and on), admit it, you have to respect what this man has done. I know you may not be willing to admit anything publicly. Deep inside you still think he had to be cheating to do what he has, otherwise you’d have to admit your team actually lost to a “human” and you don’t want to do that. Among your fellow fans, when you belly up to the bar, you still mock him and talk about deflated footballs.

But when you take a moment and are honest with yourself you would love to have Tom Brady QB your team. You know it…I know it…and, don’t feel bad, your team feels the same way.

Is Tom Brady better now than he has ever been? 

Brady fires away in 30-23 win over the Jets (Photo: David Silverman Patriots.com)
Tom Brady fires away in 30-23 win over the Jets (Photo: David Silverman Patriots.com)

You can click on the above green link to find and compare Brady’s career statistics and decide for yourself. So, the question is, what more can he do? What is left to challenge the greatest QB in the history of the NFL (that will trigger some debate)? Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL owners provided the motivation he needed -or maybe he didn’t – to rejuvenate him for the 2015 season by questioning his honesty and integrity. His response has been to quietly embarrass them and their position. Hell, even the most avid Patriot fan has to admit he has surpassed any expectations we had for this season. Think about it:

  • 2,054 yards passing in 6 games
  • 16 TDs with just 1 interception
  • 2 rushing TDs after going the past two seasons with 0

With a mobility in the pocket that he has never shown before he looks like a “new” Tom Brady.  Don’t get me wrong, he has always been great, but this year he has moved into a new stratosphere. It’s not hyperbole, it is a fact and the eye test backs it up. Game-by-game he meets and exceeds expectations.

Brady brings out the best of everyone around him

Brady and Gronk celebrate TD in 30-23 win over the Jets (Photo: David Silverman Patriots.com)
Brady and Gronk celebrate TD in 30-23 win over the Jets (Photo: David Silverman Patriots.com)

Please don’t tell me he doesn’t have the weapons that other great QBs have. It doesn’t take anything away from what Mr. Brady has done this year to acknowledge the greatness of Rob Gronkowski (or Randy Moss in 2007). Julian Edelman and the now healthy Danny Amendola aren’t anything to laugh at, and Dion Lewis has emerged as a top tier running back/receiver.

Danny Amendola makes an acrobatic catch in 30-23 win over the Jets Photo David Silverman
Danny Amendola makes an acrobatic catch in 30-23 win over the Jets (Photo: David Silverman Patriots.com)

However, with that said, Brady makes everyone on the offense look better. The ensemble that makes up the offensive line attests to what he is capable of doing. If you can name the starting five linemen for last night’s match-up with the amazing pass rush of the rejuvenated Miami Dolphins without looking it up, congratulations.

Credit the quick release (fastest in the NFL) of Tom Brady with the fact we’re not in panic as each weeks latest super team lines up on the other side of the ball. Speaking of which, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing how all these teams are suddenly able to “challenge” the Patriots dominance in the NFL. Before they can challenge they have to show they can beat the best…and so far no one has done that.

Follow me on twitter @SnowdonBob

NFL Week Seven Power Rankings

It wasn’t the blood bath I was hoping for, but the Colts trying to pull off the Annexation of Puerto Rico made it all worthwhile. Indianapolis showed a little bit of pride and finally dropped their nuts after being shoved into a locker in the previous billion meetings. My boys came away with a victory on the road and sit atop the AFC, per usual. However, a tough game looms at home this weekend when a rejuvenated Jets team comes to town. This matchup places the number one offense in the league against the number one defense in a game that will play much closer than people think. The defensive front of the Jets is arguably the best in the league and let’s not forget about number twenty-four in the secondary. Granted, they still have the Amish King running the show on offense, but Todd Bowles led an Arizona defense into Foxboro a few years back and shocked the Patriots. Not sure if this has crossed anyone else’s mind, but we are almost halfway through the regular season. Winter is coming…

1) New England Patriots – If you don’t think Ernie Adams had something to do with the Colts calling that play, you’re lying to yourself.

2) Green Bay Packers – The Denim King proved he was human throwing a few interceptions two weeks back, and the defense let up a quarter-mile worth of passing yards. Yet, the Pack is still undefeated.

3) Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals have the deepest roster in the NFL. Fact, not opinion. Can the Ginger keep up his stellar play when the elements come into play?

4) Denver Broncos – Denver’s defense and special teams has outscored the offense. I picked them to win the Super Bowl, but I don’t think they keep this pace up when the weather declines.

5) Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton did something he hasn’t done since he came into the league. He earned my kudos.

6) Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals lost to Mike Vick and Landry Jones. Plain and simple. I won’t and can’t buy a Carson Palmer led team.

7) New Jersey Jets – Sheldon Richardson is licking his chops for Sunday’s game in New England. Hey Snacks, so is TB12.

8) Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons ran into The Kings of Primetime. Not many people beat the Saints in their own building when the stage is at its biggest.

9) Philadelphia Eagles – When is Chip Kelly going to realize running Demarco Murray laterally out of the pistol is not the best way to use his skillset?

10) Pittsburgh Steelers – Welcome to the NFL Landry Jones. Big Ben should be 100% healthy before he laces up the cleats again, and the organization will be foolish to allow him to do otherwise.

11) New Jersey Giants – I’ve never seen a quarterback make more horrible decisions in my life than Eli Manning. I mean these are the dumbest of dumb throws.

12) Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson’s pocket awareness is as sharp as a spork they give to prisoners.

13) Buffalo Bills – The locker room is already starting to unravel halfway through Rex Ryan’s first season.

14) San Diego Chargers– If 502 passing yards isn’t winning you football games, something is wrong on the other side of the ball.

15) Indianapolis Colts– I call it, The Annexation of Puerto Rico.

16) Dallas Cowboys – Bye Week

17) Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings offensive line needs to improve, regardless of the team winning games. AP is the cog that makes that engine go.

18) Miami Dolphins – The Fish seemed to play with a little bit of fire for their new coach. Maybe the Oklahoma drill actually works?

19) Cleveland Browns – Captain Mike must have been sick after that game on Sunday. He had multiple chances to put the Broncos and Manning away, and his team puked on themselves.

20) St. Louis Rams – Bye Week

21) Oakland Raiders – Bye Week

22) Chicago Bears – Alshon Jeffery’s return is going to be huge for the Bears offense. They need more out of the running game from Matt Forte to be competitive though.

23) New Orleans Saints – Brees delivered per usual for the Kings of Primetime.

24) Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs may not win more than four games this year. The team is a mess in all three phases of the game.
25) Houston Texans – Deandre Hopkins may be the best receiver in football in only his second year.

26) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bye week.

27) Washington Redskins – Gruden making excuses for the weather being too windy for his quarterback is not a good look.

28) Detroit Lions – Fat Face won a game! Fat Face won a game!

29) Jacksonville Jaguars – Not only do the Jaguars stink, they have to make their annual trip across the pond to get beaten by the Bills on Sunday.

30) San Francisco 49ers – I’m happy for Tomasula. We all laughed at his EBS issues in his presser a few weeks back. The Niners put their foot on the gas Sunday against the Ravens, finally. Plenty of pun intended.

31) Baltimore Ravens – Oh Baltimore, you will be 1-6 by this time next week. Life is good.

32) Tennessee Titans – Mariota has a slight MCL sprain. The Selfie King may be taking the snaps for the next few weeks.

New England Patriots: Halloween Arrives Early In Indy!

Let’s be honest, the Sunday night match-up between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts didn’t go as planned.

  • No, not because the Patriots only won by 7 points, 34-27 (should have been 34-21, but Colts scored a garbage time TD).
  • It wasn’t because LeGarrette Blount “only” ran for 93 yards.
  • It wasn’t even because Julian Edeleman actually dropped three passes, one leading to a pick six by the Colts.

It was because…are you ready?…the Colts thought it was already Halloween and decided it was going to be “trick” not “treat” night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

There were ghosts, goblins, witches and lots of tricks

The ghosts of years past were in the air and on the field as the Colts received the opening kick-off and marched 90 yards with

Julian Edelman scores as he's hit by Colts strong safety Mike Adams (29) and inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (52) . (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Julian Edelman scores as he’s hit by Colts strong safety Mike Adams (29) and inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (52) . (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

relative ease to take a quick 7-0 lead.

New England returned the favor with an 80 yard drive of their own, culminating withJulian Edelman scoring his fourth receiving TD of the season, knotting the game at 7-7

Things settled down for a while before the witches stepped in and put a hex on Edelman, causing him to injure his finger and start dropping passes. The most damaging drop occurring in the 2nd quarter, when a Tom Brady pass bounced off #11’s hands into the waiting arms of Mike Adams, who scampered 14 yards down the sidelines to give the Colts a 14-10 lead.

The pass was Brady’s 1st interception of the year, but the blame fell squarely on those damned witches as they made the perfect pass bounce off the usually sure hands of the hexed Edelman.

At this point the Goblins entered the head of Indy Head Chuck Pagano. As visions of sugar plums danced in his head, oh wait a minute…back-up, that’s Christmas. Thinking this was time to spring surprise #1 of the game, the infamous on-side kick, Pagano and his special teams coach went for it.

It was just the 2nd quarter, but surely this would surprise New England Head Coach Bill Belichick. As the ball squirted from hand to hand before falling under the prone body of Patriot Josh Kline it looked like the greased pig contest we’ve all seen at the State Fair. As bodies un-piled the officials took the still inflated ball and loudly proclaimed “New England’s Ball.”

…But wait, there’s more

Pagano was in shock. My God, how could that be, he thought, as his head spun (kinda like in the movie The Exorcist). Knowing exactly what to do, he grabbed the red flag from his sock and hurled it on the field to challenge the play.  “Upon further review their was no clear view of the fumble recovery, therefore the initial call stands” blared through the PA system.

Six plays later Blount rumbled 38 yards “giving” the Patriots back the lead, 17-14.

LeGarrette Blount runs for a 38-yard touchdown after the Colts botch an on-side kick (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
LeGarrette Blount runs for a 38-yard touchdown after the Colts botch an on-side kick (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

The Colts scored another TD and the Patriots a last second field goal as the hectic half ended 21-20 and everyone took a deep breath…and believe me, they would need it.

The Play Of The Game

The Colts kicked off to start the second half and Rob Gronkowski scored his first TD in the last 3 games to put New England up 27-21. With the same score and 1:14 left in the 3rd quarter the Colts went to a play that makes the Seahawks Super Bowl loss pass look a great call. And here it is in all it’s glory:
Possibly The Worst Play In NFL History?

You have to give Pagano credit, per Ian O’Connor, ESPN Senior Writer, after the game he said “I take full responsibility for that,” as if he had any other choice.

As far as the Patriots being unprepared for either that play, or the earlier onside kick, here is Coach Belichick’s post-game response “We expected this to be a gadget game in the kicking game,” The man has his team prepared for almost everything, yet other coaches continue to try to trick plays that look foolish.

Talk About Athleticism – Meet Jamie Collins

After the Colts scored their final TD with 1:26 left in the game the Halloween Theme continued when Patriots LB Jamie Collins had the most athletic play of the game…with a little help from the ghosts of games past. Check it out. If you look real closely, you’ll see them pushing him up and over on this extra point attempt http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-cant-miss-plays/0ap3000000560794/Can-t-Miss-Play-Collins-hurdles-line-and-blocks-PAT

Right about now Colts fans are spouting the line “it was a moral victory”…or “we gave them the game”. No matter what, one thing is obvious…the Baltimore, oops, Indianapolis Colts were running scared even though they held the lead at halftime 21-20. Play calling was in respect for what the Patriots could do and in fear of what the night would bring.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob