Tuesday, December 31, 2013

H4TV: Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and Buffalo Bills Show Why they Keep Chasing New England Patriots in the AFC East

by Hal Bent | Posted on Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

The New England Patriots are now on a well-earned bye week as they rest their players and get ready for which team comes to Foxboro, MA on January 11th.  Out of Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati (as the number two seed New England cannot face San Diego in this round) the Patriots are guaranteed a tough matchup in the divisional round.  By defeating Buffalo 34-20 on Sunday, the Patriots sent the Bills back to a familiar place: the early stages of the draft in search of the next move to get back to the playoffs. Fortunately for New England the Jets and Dolphins were too inconsistent all season long to challenge in the AFC East and another division title was easily in reach.

The Bills, two years removed from an offseason of reckless spending and being the darlings of the media to knock-off New England, had another season full of disappointment. Despite adding two impact players on defense this offseason–linebacker Jerry Hughes via trade and linebacker Kiko Alonso via the draft–to a superb defensive line (particularly Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, and Marcell Dareus) and a secondary with two young superstars (cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Jairus Byrd), the Bills found themselves with double-digit losses.

The Bills have a dynamic young quarterback in E.J. Manuel who just could not stay away from injury and on the field in 2013.  A trio of young wide receivers gives hope that the Bills have an answer for a solution for games when mercurial wide receiver Stevie Johnson does not bring top effort. With two strong running backs the Bills seem to have all the right players but just did not put it together in 2013.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins were 8-6 after week fifteen and staring down an almost guaranteed playoff spot...CLICK HERE FOR MUCH MORE: http://www.h4-entertainment.com/2013/12/afc-east-2013/

Monday, December 30, 2013

Cover32: Two game balls this week, and one will surprise you


For the last game of the season, the Patriots had two players who stood out and shone bright on a rainy afternoon in Foxboro, MA. In fact, for Sunday’s 34-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills there will be two game balls. It seems fitting with no game next week that there should be two game balls, as one is for today’s game and the other is for the “win” next week (which is getting a week off to recover—which is vital for a banged-up team like New England).
Offense and Special Teams
For running back LeGarrette Blount, playing in the NFL in 2013 was no sure thing. He was buried on the depth chart in Tampa Bay behind rookie sensation Doug Martin in 2012 and already had struggled to catch on after going undrafted after a tumultuous college career. The Patriots gave up the 229th pick and track star Jeff Demps for Blount and have certainly got the best of that deal.
While Tampa Bay waited for Demps to finish running track and come back to football, Blount slowly worked his way into the Patriots’ offense as injuries and fumbles slowed the New England rushing attack. Demps was active two games and then went on injured reserve for groin surgery. With his big game against Buffalo, that makes for 772 yards rushing in New England for Blount compared to 14 yards rushing for Demps.
On a soaked and sloppy field, Blount was too much for the Bills to handle. With 118 yards rushing at the half, Blount helped New England jump out to a 16-3 halftime lead. The highlight of the half was his 36-yard touchdown rumble...http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/12/30/two-game-balls-this-week-and-one-will-surprise-you/

Sunday, December 29, 2013

MusketFire: New England Patriots Defeat Buffalo Bills and Lock up Bye

BY  - 
On a rainy afternoon in Foxboro, MA the 11-4 New England Patriots faced the 6-9 Buffalo Bills in their final game of the 2013 NFL season.  With wins by the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals in the earlier timeslot, the game became a must win for New England to hold on the #2 seed and a bye in the playoffs.

The Patriots knew Buffalo, with their dynamic front seven, would be difficult to throw against. The Patriots lost wide receiver Aaron Dobson early in the game to a foot injury.  With rookie Josh Boyce already out, the Patriots seemed to go two wide receiver with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman along with two tight ends or a fullback for most of the game.

It was a sloppy game in the rain as both teams leaned on the running game. Quarterback Tom Brady only threw for 122 yards, but with Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount running hard on the slippery surface.  The Patriots rushed for 267 yards and Blount accounted for 189 yards on 24 carries and Ridley added another 74 on only 12 carries.  Blount had two over 30 yard touchdown runs and also kick returns of 82 and 62 yards.

For New England, it was a strong game where it would have been easy to give up with the bad weather.  The defense held down the Bills for a good part of three quarters. The Bills racked up almost 400 total yards, but the defense was able to make some big stops for New England. Most encouraging for the defense was that they were able to win and hold down the point totals without the benefit of a number of turnovers.

In the end, New England won 34-20 and locked up the number two spot in the AFC and a first round bye in the playoffs.  The Patriots will have a week off to get healthy and have a home playoff game in the Divisional round...Click here for much more: http://musketfire.com/2013/12/29/new-england-patriots-defeat-buffalo-bills-lock-bye/

Cover32: Preview: Pats have a fight on their hands against Buffalo


The New England Patriots finish off the 2013 regular season against the opponent they faced to open the season: the Buffalo Bills. In Week 1, the Patriots jumped out to a 17-7 lead before falling down 21-17 and needing a Stephen Gostkowski field goal with five seconds to play in the game to win 23-21. It set the tone for a season of close games and comeback victories for New England.
In Week 17, the Bills are playing for pride. At 6-9 they have assured themselves at least a tie for last place in the AFC East while New England has locked up the division title already. Buffalo’s season has been stunted by inconsistent offensive play by being forced to play three young quarterbacks: first round draft pick E.J. Manuel, backup Thaddeus Lewis, and third-string undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel. This week, New England will match up against young backup Thaddeus Lewis as E.J. Manuel is unable to go due to a sprained LCL in his left knee.
Beyond the big question of the quarterback in Buffalo, the Patriots have to deal with safety Devin McCourty likely missing the game after not practicing all week. These are three keys to focus on as the Patriots go for their 12th win and attempt to lock up a bye week and free pass to the divisional round.
Who is Thad Lewis?
Buffalo backup quarterback Thad Lewis has started four games for Buffalo this season: nearly beating Cincinnati, beating Miami twice, and losing to New Orleans. Lewis is mobile with a strong arm and his biggest issue is accuracy. He has a reputation as a tough quarterback who can take a hit (see the game tape of the New Orleans game). His lack of playing time is the big issue that the Patriots defense will need to exploit...http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/12/29/preview-pats-have-a-fight-on-their-hands-against-buffalo/

FirstStopFantasy: Cleveland Browns Attempting to Finish 2013 Season Strong

Cleveland Browns Attempting to Finish 2013 Season Strong - My final Cleveland Browns game preview for 2013 looks at the Browns trying to knock a division rival out of the playoff picture at FirstStopFantasy.com

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cover32: Keys to postseason victory for the Patriots from the big win in Baltimore


The New England Patriots went into Baltimore to face off against the Ravens on Sunday in a rematch of the past two AFC Championship Games. On an unseasonably warm December day, it was the Patriots flexing their muscle on both sides of the ball and leaving with a 41-7 victory. While not squashing the Ravens’ playoff chances—as the Miami Dolphins had already lost to Buffalo by kickoff—the AFC East champion Patriots dealt the Ravens’ postseason chances a mighty blow.
Coming out of the game, the Patriots showed the nation again that this squad is never to be counted out as long as quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick are around. The Patriots played a strong game on both sides of the ball to win soundly. It was a closer game than the final score indicated, as the Ravens hung around until the end. In the end, New England put the Ravens away with a strong defensive stand followed by a backbreaking drive.
There were three keys playing out in the game that may make for success this Sunday against Buffalo and carry over into the playoffs for New England: The Patriots’ defense stepped up to make big plays and create turnovers, the New England offense was able to run the ball effectively on the road against a top defense, and again the team on both sides of the ball overcame injuries to key players to claim a much-needed signature road victory.
Injuries Continue to Pile Up
Running back Shane Vereen and safety Devin McCourty became the latest injured players for a Patriots squad that has dealt with injury after injury all season long. New England continued to be ravaged by injuries against Baltimore on Sunday...


Thursday, December 26, 2013

H4TV: New England Patriots: Three Keys To Playoffs Success Evident in Win vs Baltimore

by Hal Bent | Posted on Thursday, December 26th, 2013

The New England Patriots, written off by the pundits and talking heads prior to their match-up versus the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, responded to their critics with a physical victory over the defending Super Bowl Champions.  After falling to the Ravens last January in the AFC Championship Game the Patriots brought a physicality not seen regularly since their Super Bowl teams of a decade ago in pounding the Ravens on Sunday. Behind a physical defense, a strong offense going head-to-head with a solid Baltimore defense, and a handful of big plays the Patriots staked claim as a team capable of surviving and thriving in January.

The Patriots were able to defeat Baltimore with balanced play on both sides of the ball. On offense, the offensive line was able to shuffle key players to hold-up against the fearsome Baltimore pass rush and create space for the three-headed rushing attack.  On defense, the Patriots secondary shook off injuries to make big play after big play and keep the Ravens from crawling back into striking distance.  These three keys were vital in New England defeating Baltimore 41-7 on Sunday.

The New England Patriots secondary held Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco was held to 260 yards passing and threw two interceptions.  Most impressive was that the secondary was still undermanned and able to keep the Ravens passing offense–especially their downfield weapons–in check. Per ProFootballFocus.com, Flacco was 0-6 with an interception–and a dropped interception by safety Devin McCourty–on passes more than 20 yards downfield.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was not healthy and only played when injuries forced him in the game.  Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia finally wised-up and left cornerback Kyle Arrington inside on the slot a majority of the game while having rookie Logan Ryan on the corner opposite Aqib Talib.  With Arrington playing at his more comfortable spot inside, he appeared much more comfortable.  Arrington also had a sack of Flacco on a key third down coming off the edge on a cornerback blitz to stall a second quarter drive and force a punt.

Cornerback Aqib Talib struggled in coverage, but nothing like he did with Josh Gordon in Cleveland three weeks ago. After starting the season with a number of impressive performances, Talib has struggled since his hip injury in week six. For the second straight week, Talib was able to adapt his coverage skills with his obviously still injured hip and keep his receiver in front of him. After four straight games allowing opposing quarterbacks to a QB rating over 100 against him in coverage, Talib has been much improved over the last two weeks...click here ofr more: http://www.h4-entertainment.com/2013/12/new-england-patriots-three-keys-to-playoffs-success-evident-in-win-vs-baltimore/

Sunday, December 22, 2013

MusketFire.com: Game Recap: New England Patriots Beat Baltimore Ravens

BY  - 
The New England Patriots came into their game in Baltimore against the Ravens with one mission already accomplished. Thanks to a gift from the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots clinched the AFC East when the Dolphins laid an egg in the 1:00PM timeslot and were shutout 19-0.  With the AFC East wrapped up and the Ravens in position to secure a playoff spot, all signs seemed to point towards a Ravens home win as the pundits had predicted all week.

The Patriots started strong and scored two first quarter touchdowns and added a field goal on the first play of the second quarter to go into the half with a 17-0 lead. With 86 yards rushing in the first half the Patriots controlled the clock and the game early. However, the lead came with a price as the Patriots lost running back Shane Vereen, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and safety Steve Gregory to injury in the first half. Hightower and Gregory returned, but Vereen did not.

The final score was 41-7, but it was a lot closer than that as the Ravens defense shut down the Patriots offense in the second half.  Drive after drive resulted in punts and fortunately the Ravens offense was just anemic enough to stop themselves.  The Patriots offense again leaned heavily on their three (four?) headed running back and receiver Julian Edelman. The Patriots offensive line and secondary excelled despite injuries throughout the game and made the plays that allowed New England to pull out the victory on the road in Baltimore.

The injuries continued to pile up in the second half as safety Devin McCourty knocked himself silly early tackling tight end Ed Dickson...click here for much more: http://musketfire.com/2013/12/22/game-recap-new-england-patriots-beat-baltimore-ravens/

Cover32: Must-win against Ravens will be decided by Pats’ offense


The New England Patriots seem to wind up with two teams on their schedule most every year: wherever Peyton Manning is playing and the Baltimore Ravens. Instead of facing Baltimore at the beginning of the season when it looked like the Super Bowl champs were facing a season on the outside looking in, the Patriots face a Ravenssquad that has stormed to four straight victories behind a ferocious defense that has turned the page on the Ed Reed/Ray Lewis era and firmly established themselves as a top squad in 2013.
As the two teams have a long history and have faced each other in the AFC Championship game the past two seasons, it is no surprise that they find each other in week fifteen of the NFL season with a lot on the line. The 10-4 Patriots need a win after being upset by Miami last week to lock up the AFC East and get the inside track towards a first round bye. The 8-6 Ravens need another victory to keep a lock on the final playoff spot that they currently hold—and hold off the Dolphins.
There is no doubt that this is a must-win for New England. However, the Ravens are playing their best football of the season and are always a tough matchup for thePatriots. Former Patriots’ defensive coordinator Dean Pees has his squad keyed up to tee-off and attack the offense of Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The Patriots’ offense against the Ravens’ defense, particularly in the trenches, will be the key to victory on Sunday afternoon.
The New England Patriots are already missing three key players on offense as left tackle Nate Solder and rookie wide receivers Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkinshave been downgraded to out of the game on Sunday. Solder, who has been playing at a Pro Bowl level all season, will be sorely missed with right tackle Sebastian Vollmer already out for the season. The Patriots face a difficult test as it is with Baltimore’s aggressive front seven, and all eyes will be on the offensive line as the Patriots’ coaching staff tries to decide what combination of players will make up the front five. CLICK HERE FOR MUCH MORE: http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/12/22/must-win-against-ravens-will-be-decided-by-pats-offense/

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

cover32: Big bad Baltimore; three keys to revenge for the Pats


This should be THE game.
This should be the game that the Patriots had circled in red ever since the schedule first came out.
Last January, the Ravens came to Foxboro for the AFC Championship and punched the Patriots in the mouth. Now it’s time for New England to get back on track and punch back.
The Patriots are coming off a difficult loss in the last minutes of last Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. The game came down to two big plays, one on offense and one on defense.
On defense, the Patriots had a three point lead late in the fourth quarter with less than three minutes to play, and Miami’s offense was faced with a fourth-and-five. The Patriots’ defense did not make the stop.
On offense, the Patriots had five opportunities to get in the end zone in the last 27 seconds of the game inside the 20 yard line, but they failed to make a connection on any of the five passes.
The Ravens are struggling to shake off the tough start to their season and are looking to nab the sixth and final AFC playoff spot from the Dolphins.
Baltimore’s offense has had trouble all season with consistency. They’ve had issues on the offensive line, with running the ball, and in the short passing game. After initial struggles, the Ravens’ defense has now begun to jell into a solid unit. Last week, theRavens were able to defeat the Detroit Lions without scoring a touchdown. In fact, kicker Justin Tucker had to convert a 61 yard field goal at the end of the game in order to grab the win.
The Patriots continue to have injury issues on both sides of the football. It’s getting tiresome to list the all the players not in the lineup each week. Many of these players will be gone for the rest of the season and can no longer count as excuses. Every team in the league has lost key players to injury. The Patriots need to work around the injuries they’ve had and find a way to win....click here for more: http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/12/20/big-bad-baltimore-three-keys-to-revenge-for-the-pats/

Sunday, December 15, 2013

MusketFire: New England Patriots Fail to Convert Against Miami Dolphins

BY  - 
The New England Patriots faced-off in Miami on a muggy Sunday afternoon far from the snow and cold of New England.  After falling behind against Miami in their first matchup of the season at home 17-3 at halftime, the Patriots needed to shake off their first quarter blues and play with a lead for once.  They were able to do that with a strong first drive and take a 3-0 lead after one quarter of play. New England stretched the lead to 10-0 but Miami was able to drive and score before the half to make it 10-7 after 30 minutes of play.

That set the tone of the game as the New England offense sputtered in second half.  Even after taking a lead, Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill made a couple of huge plays to take the lead back.  Tom Brady drove downfield and had multiple chances to get in the end zone, but for the third time in the game the Patriots offense was able to score a touchdown in the red zone and fell short. Without their largest target, Rob Gronkowski, or big outside receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, the Patriots were not able to punch the ball in the end zone when they needed to score a touchdown.

Despite playing well at times on both sides of the ball on the road against a tough division rival, the Miami Dolphins defeated the New England Patriots 24-20. Both quarterbacks went over 300 yards in the air, neither team was especially dominant rushing the ball, and Mike Wallace of the Dolphins and Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman of the Patriots all went over 100 yards receiving in the game. The game came down to a handful of big plays at the end of the game and this time it was home team, the Dolphins, who converted on fourth-and-five inside of three minutes and then stopped the Patriots from completing a pass in the end zone.

For the Patriots, a big initial boost on offense was getting tackles Nate Solder (concussion) and Marcus Cannon (ankle) back in the starting lineup. While Will Svitek did a good job backing up Cannon the past few weeks, with Miami’s explosive trio of defensive ends of Cameron Wake, Dion Jordan, and Olivier Vernon the Patriots were happy to be at full strength at the important position. Unfortunately, the great offensive line protection ended when Solder left in the second half due to a head injury and forced a reshuffling of the line.  From that point forward, the Dolphins were able to hit and hurry quarterback Tom Brady repeatedly.

The Dolphins offense was effective running the football and mixing in short passes in the first half against the Patriots in week eight. They went right back to that game plan on their first drive attacking the weak interior of the Patriots defense with running back Lamar Miller and short passes in the middle of the field.  As the game progressed, the Dolphins started working the ball deeper to wide receivers Mike Wallace and Rishard Matthews.

The Patriots opened the second half with LeGarrette Blount in the backfield again and used the run to set-up the pass...Click here for much more: http://musketfire.com/2013/12/15/new-england-patriots-fail-convert-miami-dolphins/

Cover32: Patriots Looking to “Squish the Fish” in Miami


The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins prepare to face off in the heat of southern Florida Sunday afternoon while New England braces for the first significant snowstorm of the season. This matchup of the top two teams in the AFC East was expected to be a battle for the AFC division title at the beginning of the season with both teams jumping out to 3-0 records. However, the Dolphins lost their next four contests and have been struggling to stay at or above a .500 record since.
Miami head coach Joe Philbin has the Dolphins at 2-0 in the crucial month of December to keep pace with New England in the AFC East and most importantly keep their playoff hopes alive. Miami has beaten Wild Card contenders the New York Jets (6-7) and Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8) in back-to-back weeks this month. Miami has the same record as the Baltimore Ravens (7-6), who hold the final Wild Card spot currently in the AFC due to their head-to-head tiebreaker against Miami.
Earlier this season, the Patriots and Dolphins went head-to-head in Foxboro, MA in week eight of the NFL season. In that matchup, in what has become a familiar refrain for New England this season, the opposition led 17-3 at halftime. New England quarterback Tom Brady was held to just 6 of 8 for 25 yards passing in the first half while the Dolphins rushed for over 100 yards in the first half with a balanced attack. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, the Patriots righted the ship and outscored Miami 24-0 in second half to win the game 27-17.
This week the Miami Dolphins placed starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson on season-ending injured reserve. Patterson was injured earlier in the season and returned to the lineup in week eight against New England. He was a large part of the Dolphins defense which held Tom Brady to 116 yards passing. In fact, Patterson intercepted Brady on the first drive of the game for New England....click here for much more: http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/12/15/patriots-looking-to-squish-the-fish-in-miami/

FirstStopFantasy.com \: Cleveland Browns Need a Bounce-Back Win Vs Strong Chicago Bears

by Hal Bent
The Cleveland Browns are coming off a disappointing loss to the New England Patriots in Foxboro, MA last Sunday. The Browns lost 27 to 26 when they blew a twelve point lead with less than three minutes to play in the game.
The Browns were hurt by two questionable penalties that had a major impact on the game.  Both calls went the home team’s way and helped allow New England to come back to win. The first was the unnecessary roughness call on backup cornerback Jordan Poyer that allowed New England to kick-off from mid-field for their onside kick attempt. Poyer did not launch himself or go helmet-to-helmet and yet still was penalized.
After backup running back Fozzy Whittaker could not cover the onside kick attempt New England had new life down by five points. On first down at the 30 yard line with 40 seconds to play, Leon McFadden was penalized for a questionable pass interference penalty in the end zone. At worst, it could have been called a five-yard penalty for holding before the receiver Josh Boyce neared the end zone. It was tight coverage on a contested pass.
What really hurt the Browns the most in those last three minutes was that the defense which had harassed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throughout the first 57 minutes of the game took their foot on off the pedal. Now the Browns have nine losses and are left playing for next season. They can look back at this game against New England like their earlier games against Kansas City (week 8), Baltimore (week 9), Cincinnati (week 11), and Jacksonville (week 13) where they had ample opportunity to pull out an important victory and fell short.
This week the Browns welcome the 7-6 Chicago Bears to Cleveland for a Week 15 match-up. While the Bears are coming off their big Monday night win last week against the Cowboys, the Browns are looking to play them tough at home and wipe away any remnants of last week’s collapse in New England...Click here for more: Cleveland Browns Need a Bounce-Back Win Vs Strong Chicago Bears

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cover32.com: Can the Patriots survive the loss of Gronkowski?


The New England Patriots pulled out an improbable victory over the Cleveland Browns on a wintery December evening at Gillette Stadium in what was supposed to be a blowout of an inferior team by the Patriots mighty offense. Instead, the Patriots were shut out in the first half, lost tight end Rob Gronkowski for the season, and needed a most implausible ending involving an onside kick, a home team friendly pass interference penalty, and a last gasp winning field goal attempt by Cleveland falling just short.
What was most important in the Patriots’ pyrrhic victory was that the Patriots won the game to stay ahead of Cincinnati for the No. 2 playoff spot and bye in the AFC but lost their most valuable offensive weapon. After tight end Rob Gronkowskireturned from his multiple offseason surgeries, the Patriots emerged as a potential Super Bowl competitor after knocking off Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. With Gronkowski in the lineup for a few weeks the team looked like an elite offense. However, the question after yet another injury to the freakishly talented Gronkowski becomes: Can the Patriots survive the loss of Rob Gronkowski?
Since Rob Gronkowski first returned from the PUP (physically unable to perform) list following his multiple off-season forearm and back surgeries for the Patriots’ Week 7 game against the New York Jets, Gronkowski has been on the receiving end of 39 passes for 592 yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Tom Brady.
There simple fact is that isn’t a player on the New England roster who is capable of stepping up and replacing Gronkowski at tight end just as there was no tight end capable of replacing Aaron Hernandez this offseason. Michael Hoomanawanui is a good role player and Matthew Mulligan is a capable backup but neither is going to be the number one target for quarterback Tom Brady. New England’s wide receivers, and especially running back Shane Vereen, have to be able to step up and contribute for the rest of the season.
The good news for New England is that preparing for life without Gronkowski is not uncharted territory for the Patriots’ offensive coaching staff. The offense was without tight end Rob Gronkowski for five of the final six games of the 2012 season, basically the entire playoffs, and the first six games of this season: that is almost half of the games (15 of 34 total games) dating back through last season. Once again they face the all-too-familiar situation.
Without Gronkowski, the emphasis is getting the rookie wide receivers healthy again and back in rhythm with quarterback Tom Brady...click here for much more: http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/12/13/can-the-patriots-survive-the-loss-of-gronkowski/

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

H4TV: Can the New England Patriots Make a Playoff Run After Losing Rob Gronkowski?

by Hal Bent | Posted on Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
The New England Patriots faced the Cleveland Browns on a cold December afternoon in Foxboro MA in a matchup that the Patriots were expected to win going away. Instead, the Patriots won and lost.  In what can only be called a Pyrrhic Victory, the Patriots won the game but lost their most dynamic offensive weapon.  After suddenly looking like a Super Bowl competitor after defeating Denver a few weeks ago, the question now is: Can the New England Patriots Make a Playoff Run After Losing Rob Gronkowski?
The Patriots, like most other teams in the NFL this season, have faced a slew of injuries. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is just the latest in a long line of injured stars. From defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly and linebacker Jerod Mayo, to offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer lost for the season. Gronkowski already missed a big chunk of the season along with running back Shane Vereen and safety Steve Gregory, and rookie wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have missed time recently with injuries, as has Vollmer’s replacement Marcus Cannon. In the secondary, besides Gregory there have been injuries to cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib, and Kyle Arrington.

Despite the rash of injuries, the Patriots sit at 10-3 and on top of the AFC East, just as it seems to happen each season regardless of the cast around quarterback Tom Brady and coached up by head coach Bill Belichick.  As the team is forced once again to adapt to not having Gronkowski for the rest of this season and probably part of next season, the Patriots need to get their offense back in gear and be able to convert third downs, extend drives, and convert trips in the red zone into touchdowns.

For offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, it is back to the drawing board to try and get the offense consistency.  Even with Gronkowski, the Patriots offense has suffered from crippling bouts of poor execution.  Against Denver, Houston, and Cleveland in consecutive weeks the offense was impotent in the first half before turning it around at halftime to drive to victory...http://www.h4-entertainment.com/2013/12/can-the-new-england-patriots-make-a-playoff-run-after-losing-rob-gronkowski/

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

MusketFire: The Patriot Way – New England Patriots News 12/10

Good morning Patriots Nation and welcome to another daily dose of MusketFire.com’s “The Patriot Way”. Plenty of news on the Patriots to read today as the Gronk injury continues to dominate the news.  Not to be overshadowed was Tom Brady’s great comeback win to let New England stay ahead of Cincinnati for the first round playoff bye. There is plenty of Patriots coverage to keep up-to-date with on the web, so let your Pal Hal and MusketFire.com do all the heavy lifting and get you some of the best links and information about all things Patriots from around the web:
* Oliver Thomas at NEPatriotsDraft.com writes about the Patriots Battle Against Attritionand chasing continuity. Oliver is one of the best with X-and-O’s online and looks at different personnel groupings the Patriots have used that they may turn to in the absence of their big tight end...Click here for more: http://musketfire.com/2013/12/10/patriot-way-new-england-patriots-news-1210/

Monday, December 09, 2013

Cover32: New England’s Week 14 game ball goes to….


After the fourth quarter comeback; after the cool under pressure; after the loss of his top target; after the improbable turnaround scoring two touchdowns in the last 2:39 of the game; it had to be Tom Brady. I tried not to go with the obvious choice. I looked and looked for another worthy winner. Really. There was just no one else who could get the game ball this week for the New England Patriots...click here for much more: http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/12/09/tom-brady-gets-the-game-ball/

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Cover32: Browns vs Patriots preview: how many spikes for Gronk?


The New England Patriots kick-off their NFL week fourteen game on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns in Foxboro, MA at 1:00PM eastern time. Continuing their tour through the AFC North, the AFC East leading nine win Patriots face-off against the four win Cleveland Browns. The Patriots are looking for their third straight win while Cleveland is on a three game slide. While New England can wrap up the AFC East with a win and a Dolphins loss, the Browns sit two games behind the division rival Ravens for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. The Patriots are looking for another win to stay in contention for a top spot and bye week in the playoffs. The Browns are looking get back in contention and to make a run for the playoffs.
The big story leading up to the week was the quarterback situation in Cleveland. Starter Jason Campbell and thrice-demoted backup Brandon Weeden have been suffering with post-concussive symptoms and the team was limited to the choice between newly signed Alex Tanney and Caleb Hanie. Fortunately for the Browns, Jason Campbell–their best choice of the four–has been cleared to play and will be behind center on Sunday.
In addition to quarterback issues, the Browns announced this week that defensive end Desmond Bryant was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list with an irregular heartbeat. Bryant, who signed a five-year, $34 million contract this offseason, had been the Browns’ second best pass rusher. In twelve regular season games, Bryant has been credited with 19 hurries and 11 quarterback hits to go along with 45 tackles and 3.5 sacks (statistics from NFL.com and ProFootballFocus.com).
However, the Browns are not a team built to pressure on the opposing quarterback: Bryant, disappointing free agent signing Paul Kruger and 2013 first-round draft pick Barkevious Mingo are a few of the pieces added to linebacker Jabaal Sheard to kick-start the pass rush. The team is very strong against the run, but they will struggle on Sunday to keep the Patriots off the scoreboard. In fact, per NFL.com, the Browns have allowed more touchdown passes (19) since week six than any other team.
The Cleveland Browns, despite their issues at quarterback, have one of the best wide receivers in the game this season in Josh Gordon. Gordon is the first player in NFL history to put up back-to-back 200 yard receiving games, made all the more impressive by having Brandon Weeden getting him the ball and the lack of playmakers on the offense...Click here for more: http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/12/08/browns-vs-patriots-preview-gronk-is-clevelands-match-up-nightmare/


ne patriotsBrowns http://www.blingcheese.com/image/code/129/cleveland%20browns.htmThe New England Patriots face-off against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium in a match-up of two explosive offenses.  However, for the Patriots’ offense there have been first half struggles in their last two games against the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans.  With the dangerous Josh Gordon on the other sideline for the Browns, the Patriots need to shake-off their first half hiccups and put their defense in position to play with a lead early against the Browns.

The Patriots offense will need to move the ball consistently and convert scoring opportunities in the red zone against the Cleveland Browns defense.

The Browns defense has been one of the strongest against the run this season ranking fifth in the NFL with only 98.9 yard allowed per game. Against the pass, the team relies on one of the best young cornerbacks in the NFL in Joe Haden. The Browns defense ranks fifth in the NFL against the pass allowing only 207.8 yards allowed per game.
For the Patriots offense there are injury issues at wide receiver: rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins are both likely to miss the game against the Browns (or be limited if they play). Both are battling through injuries and the Patriots may be wise to rest both of them this week in order to get both of their young outside receivers healthy before the playoffs start in January...Read more here: http://www.getrealfootball.com/new-england-patriots-offense-needs-set-tempo-vs-cleveland/

MusketFire.com: New England Patriots Pull Out Amazing Comeback Win Over Cleveland

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After talking all week about the need to start the game quickly, the New England Patriots came out at home against the 4-8 Cleveland Brownsand were outclassed on both sides of the ball early in the game.  The Patriots were fortunate to only be down 6-0 at the half as quarterback Tom Brady was only 7 of 19 passing in the first half without completing a pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski. Plagued by drops, bad passes, and an inconsistent running game, the Patriots offense looked eerily similar to their early season struggles; however, this unit had most of their top weapons on the field and was still stymied by the Browns swarming and aggressive defense.

The Browns offense was determined to play keep away, trying to extend drives and run the ball and control the clock. The Patriots game plan all went to the wind in the second half when tight end Rob Gronkowski was injured at the end of a 21 yard reception when Cleveland safety T.J. Ward hit him on the right knee and Gronkowski went down hard and was unable to leave the field under his own power as he was carted off to the locker room in obvious pain.  The extent of his injury is unknown, but it does not look good for the dominant tight end as his season is likely in jeopardy.

Without Gronkowski, the Patriots immediately lost all spark on both sides of the ball.  Credit Cleveland offensive coordinator Norv Turner, quarterback Jason Campbell, tight end Jordan Cameron, and especially wide receiver Josh Gordon who all planned and executed a smart and aggressive offensive game plan to near perfection and led 26 to 14 late in the fourth quarter and seemed poised to pull off the huge upset.

However, Tom Brady and the Patriots offense drove down the field quickly getting the ball with 2:39 to play and down by 12 points. Brady worked exclusively to Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen hurrying down the field to get a touchdown strike to Julian Edelman in the back of the end zone. A  vicious unnecessary roughness penalty on former Eagles cornerback Jordan Poyer hitting Julian Edelman hard in the head on the reception gave the Patriots a crucial 15 yards closer to the end zone.

Kicking off from the fifty yard line after the penalty, the Patriots were down 26-21 and attempted and recovered an onside kick to give them the ball at the forty. A quick check of replay  showed no illegal touching and a legal recovery by Kyle Arrington.  Tom Brady got to work right away with a quick pass to Danny Amendola to get New England to the thirty yard line.  Tom Brady went for it all and  lobbed the ball into the end zone to rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce. There was a very questionable pass interference call in the end zone on Cleveland quarterback Joe Haden that the Patriots were more than happy to accept.  With a huge break again going their way and set up with first and goal at the one yard line with thirty-five seconds to play the Patriots were improbably in position to take the lead.

Quarterback Tom Brady found wide receiver Danny Amendola in the end zone to take the lead 27-26. The Patriots were unable to convert the two-point conversion as Shane Vereen was stopped short on a running play, but the fact that the Patriots were down 19-3, lost tight end Rob Gronkowski, and then were in position to take the lead with 31 seconds left in the game was remarkable.  Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 323 yards in the second half and the Patriots defense was left to try to keep Cleveland from getting into field goal range...click here for much more: http://musketfire.com/2013/12/08/new-england-patriots-pull-out-amazing-comeback/

FullPressCoverage.com: New England Patriots’ Top 2019 NFL Draft Picks Show Evolution on Both Sides of the Ball

The New England Patriots may have tipped their hand with their first two 2019 NFL Draft picks. Choosing a bigger, more aggressive outside-...