Category Archives: Patriots

Patriots upset in bizarre home opener, Hernandez injured

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski trotted onto the field to attempt a 42-yard game winning field goal. Fans ran back into the stadium after thinking the game was surely over just minutes ago. After such a dismal and gloomy game, the Patriots miraculously found themselves on the verge of stealing victory from the Arizona Cardinals. Gostkowski lined up  the kick having already executed four field goals on the day. He missed.

The blown opportunity put the finishing touches on Tom Brady’s first ever loss in a home opener.

Cardinals backup running back Ryan Williams gave Brady and the Patriots one final hope after fumbling the ball with just over one minute left to play. Vince Wilfork recovered the fumble, and the New England offense took over already in field goal range. A 30-yard Danny Woodhead touchdown run was wiped out due to a questionable holding call on Rob Gronkowski. Brady and the offense proceeded to move the ball to the 24 to set Gostkowski up for the game winner but to no avail.

The Cardinals, having outplayed the Patriots all game, finally sealed the victory on the missed field goal. Quarterback Kevin Kolb threw for 141 yards and a touchdown as he confidently led his team to a 20-18 win in Foxboro.

For the Patriots, the biggest loss of the day is not visible in the standings. Tight end Aaron Hernandez left the game in the first quarter after being assisted off the field and down the stairs by two trainers. The injury came while blocking for Julian Edelman. His ankle appeared to get trapped under the weight of Edelman being brought down on a tackle. Hernandez was listed as questionable to return and was seen using crutches after the game.

The Patriots offense faltered the rest of the day without the abilities of their versatile tight end. The offensive line struggled mightily to protect Brady as he was sacked four times on the day. Fresh off his first 100-yard game against Tennessee, running back Stevan Ridley ran for 71 yards on 18 carries. Most of his efforts came in the first three quarters before the Patriots turned to the passing game after going down 20-9. Brady threw for 316 yards and led a nice 82-yard touchdown drive before failing to convert on the two-point conversion.

Despite the late effort by Brady and the offense, the 11-point deficit was too much for the Patriots to overcome. The Cardinals set the tone for the day after opening up the game with a six minute, 13 play drive that led to a Jay Feely field goal. Brady’s first pass of the game was tipped and intercepted by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. The Hernandez injury only added to the mood in Foxboro as the Patriots went down 6-0 after another Feely field goal.

Nothing seemed to be going the Patriots way all game. The sour feeling continued midway through the third quarter when Zoltan Mesko had his punt blocked. This setup the Cardinals for an easy two-yard touchdown pass by Kolb. Everything continued to go Arizona’s way on the very next drive. Kolb miraculously escaped a sack and found tight end Todd Heap along the sidelines for a 28-yard gain. The Cardinals gained an extra 15 yards after the Patriots were flagged for two personal foul penalties. The mood in Gillette seemed to permeate throughout the stadium as the Patriots could do nothing right.

The referees did not help the mood as they appeared clueless on a number of plays. Twice they even disagreed on whether a ball was caught or not. One ref ruled incomplete, while his teammate signaled for a completion. Despite the confusion, the referees made poor calls for both teams and did not decide the outcome of the game. The Patriots inability to do anything consistent on offense led to their demise.

The only bright side for New England was rookie defensive end Chandler Jones. He proved to be a force on the defensive side of the ball, single handedly causing the Cardinals problems. He man-handled Arizona tackle D’Anthony Batiste, getting by him three straight times to stop a run, cause a holding penalty, and force Kolb to throw the ball away on third down. The Cardinals adjusted as Jones was seen double teamed often for the rest of the game.

Wide receiver Wes Welker caught his 558th catch passing Troy Brown on the Patriots all time reception list. Despite this feat, Edelman appeared to be a larger part of the New England offense.

With only two games in the books, it is unclear which Patriots team is for real. Will they be the balanced, well-coached juggernaut from week one, or did this Patriots team show its true colors today against the Arizona Cardinals? Next week’s game against the Baltimore Ravens will be the measuring stick.

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Patriots week one report card nearly a 4.0

Did anyone really expect the Patriots to lose week one to the Titans? Not to say that it wasn’t a solid win overall, but it’s no surprise that it came fairly easy for Tom Brady and company. Second-year running back Stevan Ridley sparked the offensive attack as rookies Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones teamed up on the defensive side of the ball to force a fumble returned for a touchdown. The rest of the Patriots defense held tough as well, holding Chris Johnson to only four yards rushing on 11 carries. It is only week one of the NFL season, but this game does give hope to Patriots fans that the defense may have improved enough to make yet another Super Bowl run.

Quarterback 

A-

Tom Brady played as well as one would expect in a ninth straight season opening win. Sunday marked his 33rd consecutive game with at least one touchdown pass, throwing for two against Tennessee. Although it was only week one, Brady already looked poised for another great season.

Running Backs

A+

Run Ridley, run! Boy did Stevan Ridley run all over the Titans defense in week one. He looked like a five-year veteran as he ran for his first 100-yard rush game. Even when the Titans threatened a comeback, Ridley helped jump-start the Patriots offense in the second half on a key drive where he ran for 35 yards and a touchdown. He gives the Patriots hope that they just might have a run game this season. The only question is, can he duplicate this performance next week against the Cardinals?

Wide Receivers

B-

Patriots wide receivers Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman had only 9 catches and 90 receiving yards combined of Brady’s 236. That being said, the wide receivers were not targeted a lot as the Patriots ran the ball more than they threw it on Sunday. Lloyd did have an opportunity to start the scoring off for the Patriots on their first drive but misjudged a long pass from Brady that led to an incompletion. Lloyd did go on to run great routes proving his pure athleticism and ability to be a deep threat. He led all receivers on the day with 69 receiving yards.

Tight Ends

A

Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez received the majority of Brady’s passes as they continue to be the Patriots biggest offensive threat. Combined they caught 12 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Together they might be the most troublesome matchup that any NFL defense will face this season.

Offensive Line

A-

Considering the many questions surrounding the Patriots offensive line coming into this season, they played extremely well. Brady was only sacked once and hit only three times all game. Nate Solder made the only mistake, allowing Kamerion Wimbley by him to hit Brady hard. Despite the one mistake, the line allowed for Ridley to run wild against the Titans defense as Patriots running backs combined for 162 yards on the ground. Let’s put it this way, if the offensive line plays this well for Brady all season long, opposing defenses should be more than a little nervous.

Defensive Line

A

What more could you ask of a young defensive line against one of the top running backs in the NFL? Pro-bowl back Chris Johnson was frustrated enough to nearly throw his helmet on the sidelines as he was stuffed all day long by a suffocating Patriots run defense. He ran for four yards on 11 carries. Ouch! Rookie Chandler Jones helped come up with the biggest play of the game forcing Jake Locker to fumble the ball close to his own end zone. The only times Locker looked comfortable were the beginning drives of each half.

Linebackers

A

Veteran linebacker Jerod Mayo led the defense with nine tackles and four assists. Rookie Dont’a Hightower was in the right place at the right time in the second quarter. He picked up Jones’ forced fumble on Locker and ran it in for a touchdown that turned out to be the play of the game. It will certainly be interesting to see what Hightower and Jones can combined to do for the rest of their rookie season.

Defensive Backs

C+

The first mediocre grade of the week goes to the Patriots defensive backs. Despite the one interception by rookie Tavon Wilson, the defensive backs did not play all that well. When Locker felt comfortable and had time to throw, the Titans marched down the field at ease at the beginning of the game and the second half. It almost looked like a horrifying flashback of last years defense. Again, it is only one game, but this might be the one area that makes all Patriots fans nervous.

Special Teams

B+

Overall, the Patriots special teams unit had a solid week. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski made two field goals and even contributed a nice tackle on a Titans kick return. The only downside was when Julian Edelman refused to call a fair catch on a punt return. Fortunately for him, the Titans defender got too close and a penalty was called after Edelman could not catch the ball cleanly.

Coaching

A-

As usual, coach Bill Belichick prepared the team for another season opening win. It’s to no surprise the Patriots didn’t have any turnovers and looked almost flawless on both sides of the ball. The defense was prepared to stop Chris Johnson and confuse Locker enough to force him to turn the ball over.

Overall Grade: A

If the Patriots can play this well on the road to start the season, who knows what’s in store for the Arizona Cardinals in Foxboro for week two?

Ridley sparks Patriots’ rout of Titans

New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley ran coolly through the Tennessee Titans’ defense Sunday afternoon. The second-year back posted more total yards on offense than Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Wes Welker combined. He appeared to do so at ease as the Titans’ defense could find no answer for him.

Ridley sparked a key third quarter drive just when the Titans seemed to have a comeback in mind. He had two 15-yard runs on the drive as he continued to allude the Tennessee defense. He capped it off with a one-yard touchdown run. The score put the Patriots up 28-10 at the time, and they did not look back.

As Ridley took off for 125 yards on the ground, the Patriots’ defense stood strong in the red zone. The defense forced two turnovers  against Titans new starting quarterback Jake Locker, one which was a fumble returned for a touchdown by Patriots newcomer and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Locker injured his left shoulder trying to make a tackle on a Patrick Chung interception at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The call was eventually overturned, but it sidelined the young quarterback out for the rest of the game.

The Patriots had not lost a season opener in eight years. Ridley made sure they would keep that streak alive as the Patriots marched on to victory 34-13 Sunday afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee. The Patriots out-gained the Titans 390-284 in total yards and won the turnover battle as they typically do against their opponents.

The game had somewhat of an unsettling start for the Patriots after the Titans easily marched down the field and took a 3-0 lead on a Rob Bironas field goal. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, the Patriot’ big offseason free agent signing, then misjudged a sure touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots were forced to punt with the defense and star wide receiver already in some question.

With a little hiccup to start the season, the Patriots quickly remembered that they don’t lose season openers.

The new look defense quickly rebounded and refused to let Titans star running back Chris Johnson do anything offensively at all for the rest of the game. The defensive line suffocated the Titans anytime they tried to run the ball, and Johnson was held to a measly four total yards in 11 tries on the ground.

Once the Patriots got the ball back for their second drive, the Tennessee defense quickly crumbled and never again found an answer for the high-powered Patriots offense.

Patriots tight ends Gronkowski and Hernandez continued to prove that they are well worth the contracts they each received during the offseason. They had almost identical games as they each caught six passes and each had one touchdown grab. The two tight ends combined for 119 of Brady’s 236 total passing yards.

The only lick the Titans could put on Brady came in the second quarter after he was sacked by Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley. The New England quarterback took a foot to the face causing a bloody nose. He was forced  to wear a band aid for the rest of the game, but that was the last time the Tennessee defense put any real pressure on Brady.

Although they faced an inexperienced quarterback in Locker, the young New England defense already looks much improved from last season. Despite going to the Super Bowl last year, the Patriots’ defense was historically bad. Last year they allowed a dreadful 411 yards per game on defense, making today’s 284 total yards significantly better.

Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones made an immediate impact after sacking and a forcing the fumble that was returned for a touchdown by fellow first round draft pick Hightower. Veteran linebacker Jerod Mayo and cornerback Devin McCourty had nine and five tackles respectively as the Tennessee offense had no response to the New England defense.

The defending AFC Champion Patriots were supposed to win this game against the Titans. However, this game does answer an important question about the Patriots’ defense early on. This New England defense is improved with proof that it has already had a better game than all of last season, at least statistically speaking.

Ridley proved this afternoon that he can carry the bulk of the Patriots’ running game this season even with the loss of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He proved that this high-powered New England offense can be strong on the ground. More importantly for the Arizona Cardinals, he proved that they have one more thing to worry about against the Patriots next weekend.

NFL Predictions 2012/2013

The simple thought of Eli Manning again hoisting the Super Bowl MVP Trophy while Tom Brady sat silently by his locker is enough to make me gag. I would go so far as to say the mere sight hurt as much as Aaron Boone’s 2003 ALCS home run off Tim Wakefield. The result of Super Bowl XLVI again sent complete shock and bewilderment through Patriot nation. I didn’t think I’d ever recover… until now.

The start of a new NFL season brings new hope for Patriots fans. A new season brings hope that Tom Brady’s legacy can be complete with a fourth Super Bowl. It brings hope that a fourth Super Bowl title in six tries will make everyone forget about Eli Manning’s New York Giants. And finally, it brings New England fans hope that Tom Brady will still win his fourth title and be cemented as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

Tom Brady (Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison – flickr)

With the Giants already losing to the Cowboys in game one, here are my predictions for the 2012/2012 NFL season.

Starting with the Division standings:

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Buffalo Bills
  3. New York Jets
  4. Miami Dolphins

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Baltimore Ravens
  3. Cincinnati Bengals
  4. Cleveland Browns

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans
  2. Indianapolis Colts
  3. Tennessee Titans
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West

  1. Denver Broncos
  2. San Diego Chargers
  3. Kansas City Chiefs
  4. Oakland Raiders

AFC Wild Card winners: Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers

NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Philadelphia Eagles
  3. New York Giants
  4. Washington Redskins

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Chicago Bears
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Minnesota Vikings

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Carolina Panthers
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West

  1. San Francisco 49ers
  2. Seattle Seahawks
  3. St. Louis Rams
  4. Arizona Cardinals

NFC Wild Card winners: Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears

AFC Championship Game: New England Patriots over Denver Broncos (20-17)

NFC Championship Game: Green Bay Packers over Philadelphia Eagles (34-24)

Super Bowl XLVII: New England Patriots over Green Bay Packers (31-28)

The New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers are the two best teams going into the 2012/2013 season. Brady and Aaron Rodgers are masters at the most important position in the NFL. They know how to win, and more importantly, they make everyone around them that much better.

Expectations for the Patriots are as high as ever. It’s Super Bowl or bust again for Brady and coach Belichick. Will this be the season they complete their legacy as the greatest head coach/quarterback duo in NFL history? Pats fans hope so, even if the rest of the NFL doesn’t.

On that note, I leave you with Grantland’s Honest NFL Logos.  Enjoy opening weekend everyone.

Patriots Coverage Update

Here is the latest news on the Patriots with their season just four days away.

The Patriots recently had quarterback Mike Kafka work out for the team according to an NFL source. Kafka, cut by the Philadelphia Eagles last week, would bring more depth to the quarterback position after Brian Hoyer was recently cut.

Source: Mike Kafka works out for Patriots

Shane Vereen and Visanthe Shiancoe missed practice Wednesday afternoon reports WEEI’s Mike Petraglia. They were the only two players to miss the fully padded practice. The Patriots will hold two more practices before leaving for the season opener in Tennessee on Saturday.

Vereen, Shiancoe out, Hoomanawanui debuts

Tom E. Curran of Comcast Sportsnet New England reports that Bill Belichick trusts Josh McDaniels and his coaching staff. Curran discusses why he believes Belichick has so much trust in their judgment. Belichick trusts the system he has put in place.

Why Belichick trusts McDaniels’ judgment

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady discussed the toughness in seeing teammate Deion Branch cut from the roster on the “Dennis and Callahan” show yesterday. ESPN Boston reporter Field Yates reports that Branch is one of Brady’s closest friends. Yates also highlights the rest of the radio interview.

Brady: Cuts are a ‘tough part’ of life in the NFL

Linebacker Jermaine Cunningham appears to be an emerging defensive threat this preseason according to Boston Herald reporter Karen Guregian. Cunningham belongs to a strong group of 2010 second-round draft picks by head coach Bill Belichick. The other players include tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebacker Brandon Spikes.

2010 Pick Cunningham rounds into form

Sources report to ESPN that tight end Kellen Winslow will workout for the Patriots. The Seattle Seahawks released Winslow on Saturday after acquiring him from Tampa Bay in May. Winslow would only add to the Patriots’ depth at the tight end position.

Sources: Patriots will workout TE Winslow