Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cover32: Patriots face another hungry team in matchup vs. Steelers


The New England Patriots kick-off the second half of their 2013 NFL season with a matchup against the AFC North Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the Steelers sitting at 2-5 and in last place this season, the Patriots never take the Steelers lightly. Despite having only two wins, the Steelers still have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and explosive wide receivers Antonio Brown and Patriots’ offseason target as a restricted free agent, Emmanuel Sanders. With tight end Heath Miller, who has given the Patriots defense fits when they had Pro Bowl linebacker Jerod Mayo healthy in the past, and former New York Jets wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, the banged-up Patriots defense will have their hands full.
The Steelers have won two of three after starting 0-4. Despite the losses, Pittsburgh was never blown out, losing by a touchdown to Tennessee and Minnesota, and by ten to Cincinnati. Chicago beat Pittsburgh by 17, but the Steelers actually had a great offensive game as Roethlisberger threw for over 400 yards and nearly 200 went to wide receiver Antonio Brown. After beating the Jets and the Ravens, the Steelers fell last week to Oakland. For sure, the Steelers won’t have to defend any 93 yard runs from the quarterback this week.
The Patriots will have to play their best football like in the second half against Miami last week (wrap-up and analysis of that game is here) against the Steelers to keep their incredible home record at home after Halloween (since 2002) an NFL best .803 winning percentage and 49 wins against only 12 losses. After allowing over 100 yards rushing in the first half to a struggling Dolphins rushing offense, the Patriots clamped down in the second half and put additional defenders in the backfield to stop the run and slow the passing game. After not getting near Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first half, the Patriots defense notched a total of six sacks in the second half.
The Patriots defense was thinned last week with superb cornerback Aqib Talib sidelined again with a hip injury. During the game, New England lost cornerback Kyle Arrington with a groin injury. On Wednesday at practice, the Patriots had all players at practice, although Arrington and Talib were limited. With the return to health of the secondary regulars, the Patriots are in better shape to try to slow down the Steelers potent passing attack.
Of course, although the Steelers have not run the ball well in 2013, the Steelers have traditionally wanted to run the ball early and often...CLICK HERE FOR MUCH MORE:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 New England Patriots Mid-season Checkup

by Hal Bent - 10/30/2013

The New England Patriots sit at the midpoint of the 2013 season with a better won-loss record than in 2012 when they rolled to the AFC Championship Game. Last season, the Patriots rode a strong second half on offense behind wide receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, tight end Rob Gronkowski (tight end Aaron Hernandez was graded 50th out of 62 NFL tight ends last season–he must have had some mysterious distractions affecting his play), and the power running of running back Stevan Ridley and receiving skills of third down back Danny Woodhead.

In 2013, despite being 6-2 compared to 5-3 at this point last season, the Patriots offense has suffered mightily: Top wide receiver Danny Amendola has struggled with injuries and only played 187 snaps over eight games; a pair of rookies (Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins) and a converted college quarterback/former seventh round draft pick (Julian Edelman) have carried the load; Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been limited to eighty-six snaps so far this season; Tight end Aaron Hernandez suits up only in a prison jumpsuit; Ridley has been limited by injuries, fumbles, and curious playing-time choices by coaches while third down back Shane Vereen has only played 57 snaps due to injury.

Without these offensive weapons, the team leaned heavily on its defense and particularly their four veterans defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, linebacker Jerod Mayo, and cornerback Aqib Talib.  Unfortunately, these four have been injured and Mayo and Wilfork lost for the season. In their place, the team has leaned on a pair of undrafted defensive tackles Chris Jones and Joe Vellano, second-year linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and rookie cornerback Logan Ryan to pick up the slack on defense...Click here for much more:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cover32: The Patriots trick and treat vs. the Miami Dolphins


The New England Patriots faced-off against the Miami Dolphins in Foxboro, MA in a pre-Halloween game that epitomized the concept of “Trick or Treat”. The first half of the game was trick for New England as the rested and ready Miami squad came roaring back from their bye week and jumped out to a seventeen to three halftime lead over the Patriots.  However, the home team fans went home happy as the second half was a treat for them as New England shut out the Dolphinswhile putting up twenty-four unanswered points.
In the first half of the game the Dolphins rode running backs Lamar Miller andDaniel Thomas to 103 yards on the ground. This opened up the short passing game and allowed the Dolphins to convert numerous third-and-short situations that allowed them to control the game clock and the game itself. In fact, the Dolphins held the ball almost two-thirds of the first half.
Behind 17-3 in the third quarter and starting the second half with a three-and-out, the Patriots afternoon looked glum. However, a huge sack back Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower pushed the Dolphins out of the red zone on their initial second half drive and Miami kicker Caleb Sturgis hit the right upright with the rookie trying to make a tough forty-six yarder kicking into the wind.  The missed kick seemed to ignite New England on both sides of the ball, and by the end of the third quarter the Patriots had completely erased the Dolphins lead.
There were a number of significant points from the game that bear further attention.  Here are three from each side of the ball that had a major impact:
Ridley reignites the running game
One aspect of the Patriots resurgence in the second half of the game was the hard running bay top running back Stevan Ridley. After not playing in the first quarter, Ridley went into halftime with only five carries.  Speculation leans towards a team punishment for his high-stepping touchdown routine the week previous, but the reason for Ridley sitting out the first quarter will not be forthcoming from head coach Bill Belichick. However, given the opportunity at last to be where he belongs in the offense, Ridley pounded out fifty-six yards in the second half with a touchdown before bruising back LeGarrette Blount closed out the game against a tired Miami defense...CLICK HERE FOR MUCH MORE:


by Hal Bent - NFL Writer - October 29, 2013

The Cleveland Browns knew that beating a 7-0 team on the road in one of the toughest environments for an opposing team would be difficult, especially coming off a tough loss to the NFC North powerhouse Green Bay Packers.  However, the Browns gave a tough sixty minutes to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Browns fell in a hole early as the Chiefs led 13-0 and 20-7 at times in the first half, a tough position to be in with the Chiefs strong defense and ball control offense.  However, with quarterback Jason Campbell providing a steady hand at quarterback after the rollercoaster of Brandon Weeden behind center, the Browns were able to stay in the game and let their defense keep them in the game in second half.
While Browns quarterback Jason Campbell was not being confused with Peyton Manning, he did cut down on the stupid mistakes that seemed to be a staple of Weeden. Sure, there was a terrible almost interception at the end of the first half in the end zone on third down with less than thirty seconds to go in the first half (Kansas City cornerback Sean Smith should have picked it off). Campbell finished 22 for 36 passing for 293 yards and two touchdowns against the best defense in the AFC.
While the rushing game again was near invisible with veteran running back Willis McGahee grinding out only 28 yards on nine carries against the stout Kansas City front seven. Again the offense went through young stars wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. The two dynamic receivers accounted for two-thirds of the receiving yards for the team.
One not very shining star was Cleveland slot receiver Davone Bess who had a number of drops in the passing game. The third drop of the game was also the costliest drop. It occurred late in the game on fourth down with less than four minutes to play that effectively ended the game.  With a fumbled punt thrown in for good measure while filling in for an injured Travis Benjamin, Bess had probably his worst game at the worst time in Cleveland this year.
Most encouraging in the second half was the turnaround by the Browns defense....CLICK HERE FOR MUCH MORE:

Sunday, October 27, 2013 New England Patriots: Week Eight Game Recap vs Miami Dolphins

BY  - 
The New England Patriots faced off against the Miami Dolphins on a beautiful autumn afternoon in Foxboro, MA. Unfortunately, the game got ugly fast as the Patriots offense managed less than sixty total yards in the first half falling behind the Dolphins 17-3 at the half. In the first half, the Patriots impotent offense and weakened defense seemed like a repeat of their previous losses to Cincinnati and the New York Jets. The first half theme for New England was an offense which could not extend drives with third down conversions and a defense which could not get a stop with a third down stop.

On offense in the first half, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appeared to take a step back on offense as he ignored outside wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson in the first half in favor of squeezing passes inside to his slot receivers and tight end Rob Gronkowski. On defense in the first half, the Patriots defense was unable to get near Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.  Coming into the game with one of the worst offensive lines in football, the Dolphins front five pushed around the Patriots defense and let the Dolphins control the game with superior time of possession for the entire first two quarters of the game.

The Patriots, who had struggled to make adjustments at halftime and struggled in the third quarter for most of the season, needed to change momentum and spread the ball around on offense and then get creative on defense to dial up some pressure on the quarterback and make a few bigs plays to help the stagnant offense.  That is exactly what the Patriots did in the second half. As bad as the Patriots were in the first half against the Dolphins, they reversed course in the second half turning a full one-eighty on both sides of the ball.

The defense shut out Miami in the second half, forced multiple turnovers, and picked up six sacks.  On offense, the running game woke up with Stevan Ridley picking up the slack and LeGarrette Blount coming on to punish a tired Dolphins defense. Quarterback Tom Brady started to find his outside receivers after ignoring them in the first half.  That opened up the underneath for Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola.  After an impotent first half, the Patriots woke up on both sides of the ball and put up twenty-four unanswered points in the second half to defeat the Dolphins and got to six and two for the first half of the season....CLICK HERE FOR MORE:


by Hal Bent
Coming off of their potentially season-turning victory over their division rival New England Patriots on Sunday, the New York Jets face a daunting challenge in week eight of the NFL season as they travel to Cincinnati to face a revitalized Cincinnati Bengals team also coming off a big win last week. Behind their relentless defense and the maturation of rookie quarterback Geno Smith in the second half of the game, the Jets pulled within one game of the lead in the AFC East with their second half comeback in New England and hanging on (with some help from the officials in overtime) to grab a huge win.
Jets quarterback Geno Smith threw one touchdown pass and ran in another as the Jets topped the Patriots 30-27. Without top wide receiver Santonio Holmes again due to injury, the Jets leaned heavy upon young veteran wide receivers Jeremy Kerley and former Buffalo Bill David Nelson who stepped up ably. With running back Chris Ivory’s straight ahead hard-charging rushing style netting positive yardage and keeping the chains moving, the Jets converted 52% of their third downs (eleven for twenty-one) and rushed the ball over fifty times while controlling the time of possession (46:13 to 23:40).
This week, the Jets are in Cincinnati to face a Bengals squad coming off a dramatic victory in Detroit against the Lions. The Bengals got a 54-yard field goal from kicker Mike Nugent to lift the Bengals to a dramatic victory after the Lions had tied the game earlier. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had a big game throwing three touchdown passes and 372 yards as he carried the Bengals to a second straight win on a field goal to end the game.
After facing giant target Rob Gronkowski and the mixed bag of speedy slot receivers and young, fast outside-the-number targets in New England, the Jets have to get a big game from cornerback Antonio Cromartie against the Bengals dynamic wide receiver A.J. Green...CLICK HERE FOR MORE!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 Patriots need to move on from loss to the Jets

It should have been the comeback story of the season: tight end Rob Gronkowski returns from multiple offseason surgeries and puts the summer of Aaron Hernandez and TIm Tebow to rest at last by leading the New England Patriots over their division rival New York Jets. Unfortunately, the Patriotsdefense got worn down in the second half while the offense sputtered and spit through a tough game and could not convert on multiple opportunities to win the game. Instead of a spectacular return, it was a sad finish to another frustrating afternoon for New England in East Rutherford, NJ.
It was another frustrating afternoon for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as his completion percentage was again under fifty percent as he continued to be out-of-sync with his receivers throughout the game, despite it being week seven of the season now. The excuses are getting tired, and the production needs to be on the field. With Gronkowski back, running back Stevan Ridley close to full strength, and promising rookie receivers to go along with a pair of productive slot receivers, the offense should be clicking. Instead, poorly thrown passes by quarterback Tom Brady, especially downfield, continued to derail the Patriots offense.
On defense, no one expected New England to shut out the Jets without veteran defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, linebacker Jerod Mayo, and star cornerback Aqib Talib. In place of these four Pro Bowl caliber players stepped two undrafted free agents (defensive tackles Joe Vellano and Chris Jones), second-year linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and rookie cornerback Logan Ryan. However, injuries exist in the NFL, the Patriots are hardly the only team that has lost impact players this year, and the defense just plain got out-hustled, out-muscled, and out-executed time and time again by a mediocre Jets offense with no receivers of note, a career backup running back, and a turnover-prone rookie second-round draft pick at quarterback.
Despite the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski, the third down woes continued for New England on offense as they were 1-for-12 on third down; meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the defense allowed New York to extend drives all afternoon and to convert over fifty percent of their third-down chances. In the third quarter, the Patriots offense was abysmal as they failed to put together any sort of offensive drive. In the third quarter the Patriots offense went interception returned for a defensive touchdown, three-and-out, three-and-out, and three-and-out with the last two drives netting negative yardage.
On defense in the third quarter, the Patriots watched the Jets offense shoot itself in the foot with injuries on their first drive of the half, then allowed consecutive scoring drives to let New York completely erase the 21-10 halftime lead and give the Jets a 27-21 lead going into the fourth quarter. Even when the Patriots defense got the Jets offense off the field in the fourth quarter without allowing any points, the defense still allowed the Jets offense to run seventeen plays on two drives and eat up almost nine minutes of the clock. One three-and-out by the defense and the Patriots offense may have been in position to have a shorter field to drive and more time to execute and possibly win in regulation.
The Patriots need to put their loss to New York behind them because another dangerous division rival awaits them on Sunday. While the Miami Dolphins have been inconsistent this season, they–like the Jets–have a defense designed to specifically combat Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Like the Jets, the Dolphinsdefensive line is stellar. Rookie Dion Jordan–if the Dolphins defensive coaches ever let him play consistently–has the making of a future star opposite Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake.
The Dolphins stout middle of their defense is what gives them a huge advantage matching up with New England. Patriots offensive tackles Sebastian Vollmer andNate Solder have been dominant this season and the stats back the eye test up: ranks Patriots left tackle Nate Solder as the best offensive tackle in football so far this season with an overall rating of +18.9; in addition, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer comes in fourth in the NFL in’s offensive tackle ratings with an overall grade of +15.4. New England has the top rated left and right tackle in the NFL so far this season.
The problem for the Patriots has been in the interior of the line...TO READ MORE, CLICK HERE:


by Hal Bent - October 23, 2013 - FIRSTSTOPFANTASY.COM

The Cleveland Browns faced off against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field last Sunday and, having won three of four previous contests, seemed primed to make a push for a huge road win. Instead, the Packers had an easy time defeating the out-of-sorts Browns.  Cleveland struggled on both sides of the ball with again not generating a running game on offense, and they had no answers for Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers who picked them apart with his depleted receiving corps.
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden again showed that he had little chance of keeping his job any longer that it takes for Cleveland to find a better option be it a trade (New England backup quarterback Ryan Mallett–a favorite of Cleveland General Manager Mike Lombardi–looks more and more appealing each week) or draft next season (Cleveland has their own and Indianapolis’ first round pick next year).  Weeden did not replicate his horrible interception of the week before, but he again struggled mightily.
There were so many problems with the Browns offense that offensive coordinator Norv Turner could have used the game tape as a Halloween scare. It seemed every receiver dropped at least one pass, and Weeden topped that with some terrible throws as well.  Weeden struggled equally whether under pressure or if Green Bay dropped into coverage. The Browns were only seven for eighteen on third down and struggled to sustain drives. Running back Willis McGahee looked old and slow, but in his defense there was not a lot of space to run with the ball.... CLICK HERE FOR MORE:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

H4TV: Injury-Riddled New England Patriots Prep for Rex Ryan and the New York Jets

by Hal Bent | Posted on Sunday, October 20th, 2013 

The New England Patriots moved to five wins against only one loss as they defeated the New Orleans Saints in dramatic fashion last Sunday with only 00:05 on the clock in the fourth quarter.  Although it was another inconsistent performance by the offense, the team fought through injuries to get three opportunities to win the game against the Saints.  Although due in part to poor play calling and execution by the Saints, credit must go to the short-handed New England defense which gave quarterback Tom Brady multiple chances to drive down the field and win.

On their first drive, the Patriots offense was stalled due to a huge drop on second-and-six by running back Brandon Bolden who was filling in as the third down/passing back with injuries to Shane Vereen and back-up Leon Washington. On fourth-and-six on the drive at their own twenty-four yard line, the ball was turned over on downs by a drop by wide receiver Aaron Dobson. After holding the Saints to a field goal and no first downs, New England quarterback Tom Brady made a bad decision and threw an interception downfield on their second chance to win. As the fair weather fans in Foxboro, MA left in droves, the defense stopped the Saints again and got the ball back with 01:13 to play in the fourth quarter.

Finally, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady put together a signature drive and in eight plays and no timeouts drove seventy yards for the victory.  After hitting slot receiver Julian Edelman on first down for twenty-three yards, Brady picked up fifteen more finding recently signed-off the scrap heap wide receiver Austin Collie for fifteen yards.  Rather than spiking the ball, Brady made a quick pass to rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson for six yards and he got out of bounds to stop the clock.  After twice missing on deep middle passes to Edelman, on fourth-and-four with 00:24   on the clock he again hit Collie for a huge first down.

After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Tom Brady went to the end zone where undrafted rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was matched-up in single coverage.  A perfectly thrown pass by Brady–which was not a given considering how he had struggled so much this season passing deep down field–nestled into Thompkins arms and he kept his feet down and the Patriots pulled out the improbable victory.

This Sunday the New England Patriots face the 3-3 New York Jets in a rematch of week two of the season.  In Foxboro, MA in September, New England won 13-10 on a Thursday night.  Neither team was sharp in the first matchup, and the Jets were doomed by three interceptions thrown by rookie quarterback Geno Smith. The Patriots offense was out-of-kilter all game due to strong defensive pressure from the Jets, and New England was stopped and had to punt eleven times in that game.

This season, New England quarterback Tom Brady has been visibly uncomfortable in the pocket, double-and -triple-clutching as he waits to see what routes his young wide receivers will run,rather than throw the ball to where receiver should run to in the offensive system...CLICK HERE FOR MORE:

Thursday, October 17, 2013



by Hal Bent -

The Cleveland Browns decided to start Halloween a few weeks early this season: on Sunday they dressed up Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.  In the first half of their match-up against the Detroit Lions, the Browns leaped out to a 17-7 lead as quarterback Brandon Weeden was on top of his game as he had 12 completions in 20 attempts for 135 yards passing and the Browns rushing attack had ripped off 115 yards on the ground.  Meanwhile, the defense had continued its recent strong play and held Detroit’s potent aerial attack to only 83 yards in the air and running back Reggie Bush was limited to 14 yards rushing.  Then, the second half happened and Mr. Hyde emerged for Cleveland.
In the second half, Detroit ripped off 24 unanswered points and rolled to a 31-17 victory over the Browns.   Detroit took over the game on both sides of the ball while the Cleveland offense fizzled. By the time the Lions finished feasting on the Browns, they had limited Cleveland to eleven yards rushing in the second half and running back Reggie Bush added 64 more yards rushing to go with five receptions for 57 yards.  Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford finished with almost 250 yards passing and threw for three second half touchdowns.
In fact, Detroit went touchdown, ten play drive ending in an interception, touchdown, field goal, and touchdown in the second half. Conversely, Cleveland went punt, punt, punt punt, interception, and ended the game at the Detroit nine yard line.  As good as Cleveland had looked early on, they looked just as bad later on.
What Detroit on defense did against Cleveland is they dialed up the pressure.  According to, the Lions got nine quarterback hurries, six hits, and two sacks in the game, with a lot of the pressure coming in the second half.  Under pressure, Brandon Weeden lost his cool.  In watching the game replay, it appeared that every single time that he moved off his spot due to pressure, something bad happened. The worst play was the backward, back-to-the-line-of-scrimmage and back-hand lob that should never had been thrown and ended up in the arms of Detroit’s DeAndre Levy.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden had simply the worst interception thrown with his bizarre under-handed toss, but there was the intentional grounding penalty on the drive prior in the fourth quarter when it was 21-17 and Weeden had just found Josh Gordon for fourteen yards to start the drive...For more, click here:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 New England Patriots go from Ryan (Rob) to Ryan (Rex)


Somehow, some way, the New England Patriots found a way to win against theNew Orleans Saints.
Adjectives failed to describe what happened on Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, MA in final 3:30 of the game: Classic, Epic, Mind-boggling, Unbelievable, Incredulous, or Incredible fail to describe it.
Twice the New England Patriots offense had the ball and a chance at victory and both times the team was unable to get a first down, with a turnover on downs (highlighted by two dropped passes, including a huge drop by rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson on fourth down) and a gunslinger/Brett Favre throwback interception by quarterback Tom Brady.
However, the New England defense, which had already played the entire game without their top two interior defensive linemen (Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly) and started two rookies in their place, held the mighty Saints offense in check on two consecutive drives. With New Orleans attempting to run out the clock, thePatriots defense, also without top run-stuffing middle linebacker Jerod Mayo wholeft injured in the second half, held the Saints to consecutive three-and-outs. When the Saints attempted to pass for the first down, the Patriots secondary, which had lost shutdown cornerback Aqib Talib to a hip injury in the third quarter, stopped Drew Brees and saved precious time on the clock.
The total team effort led to an unheard of third chance to drive and win the game. Given that opportunity, quarterback Tom Brady finally took advantage of it and drove New England down the field to victory. After missing badly on the deep pass seemingly all season long, quarterback Tom Brady connected on a beautiful pass to undrafted free agent Kenbrell Thompkins with the clock ticking down from ten seconds and the Patriots trailing by six. Tom Brady was seven for 31 passing with two interceptions on passes of 20+ yards in the air before his connection to Thompkins (per
Some unheralded stars for the Patriots in the game who were lost aftermath of the comeback: Safety Devin McCourty...For much more click here:

Sunday, October 13, 2013 New England Patriots Win In Dramatic Fashion vs New Orleans Saints

BY  - 
The New England Patriots faced off against the undefeated New Orleans Saints on a beautiful autumn afternoon in Foxboro, MA on National television as the Fox Game of the Week.  The game was close throughout, with neither team able to pull away. After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Patriots pulled ahead seventeen to seven at the half. However, Saints quarterback Drew Brees quickly drove the Saints down the field on back-to-back drives to tie it at seventeen in the third quarter. The Saints later drove and took the lead late in the fourth quarter.

New England had their opportunities in the second half, and despite strong defensive play from New England, the Patriots offense kept self-destructing.  It looked like another example of the Patriots offense throwing the game away late in the fourth quarter and costing themselves the victory at home against a strong opponent.  Instead, quarterback Tom Brady somehow, after two miserable drives ending in a turnover on downs and an interception, pulled out the game with a seventeen yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.  Somehow, some way, and inexplicably as it seemed, the game ended as a thirty to twenty-seven Patriots victory over the Saints.

The second half opened with the Saints trying to establish the running game and spread the ball to different receivers. On the drive the Saints found wide receiver Kenny Stills for fourteen yards and former Patriots tight end Ben Watson for nineteen yards in the passing game on back-to-back plays. With running back Darren Sproles getting free for nineteen yards as well, the Saints went marching down the field in a hurry.  The Patriots defense continued to try to deny the Saints top weapons. On a crucial third-and-eight, Saints quarterback Drew Brees had great protection and just overthrew his fourth option on the pass, Nick Toon, and the Saints were stopped in the Red Zone as the Patriots held onto a 17 to 10 lead.

The Saints offense had opportunities all game to run the ball against the diminished defensive front of the Patriots, however, they continued to try to force the ball to their top targets. Saints  quarterback Drew Brees had backup tight end Ben Watson and wide receiver Nick Toon open or in favorable match-ups throughout the first half. When he took what was given to him, he was able to move the ball and put together scoring drives.

The Patriots had an offensive pass interference call on Aaron Dobson to negate a thirty yard pass and push the Patriots back to their own ten yard line to open the second half. Facing a third-and-thirteen, Brady overthrew a wide open Danny Amendola in the middle of the field. This was yet another poor pass by quarterback Tom Brady more than fifteen yards downfield.  As this has happened again and again this season, it begs the question if Brady has lost his accuracy on deep passes.  Too many times this season Brady has missed an open receiver more than fifteen yards downfield by either over or under-throwing the open target....Click here to read more:

H4TV: New England Patriots Face Tough Home Test Versus New Orleans

by Hal Bent | Posted on Saturday, October 12th, 2013

After four fortuitous victories by the skin of their teeth, the New England Patriots finally failed against the strong defense of the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday. This week, the Patriots face an unfamiliar foe who brings an unbeaten record, a potent offense, and a much improved defense to Foxboro, MA.  With quarterback Drew Brees heading up the New Orleans Saints offense and former Patriots defensive assistant and brother-of-Rex Rob Ryan heading up the defense, the Saints are in position to present a tough matchup on Sunday afternoon.
The New Orleans Saints offense should look familiar to the New England Patriots: hall of fame quarterback, double tight-end set, primary receiver in the slot, weak outside wide receivers, receiving running back. The only ingrediant missing is the 1,000 yard back, or this could be the 2012 Patriots offense.  In the Saints offense, Drew Brees looks remarkably similar to Tom Brady, finding whoever is open and feeding his monstrous tight end, Jimmy Graham (playing the role of Rob Gronkowski).  Former New England first round draft pick Ben Watson fills in as the second tight end (think Michael Hoomanawanui…there are no tight ends with Aaron Hernandez’s quickness and athleticism), and wide receiver Marques Colston, although built more like Anquan Boldin than Wes Welker, is a powerful slot receiver.
At running back, the Saints multi-faceted attack is down to Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.  Sproles was a third-down back, but with the disappointing first round draft pick Mark Ingram playing 32 snaps in five games due to injury and ineffectiveness, the running back position has become another pass receiver in the Saints offense.  The Saints run out youngsters and veterans at wide receiver, but none have been effective this year other than Colston. Youngsters Kenny Stills and Nick Toon have made a few plays, but are not keeping defensive coordinators up at night. Both Lance Moore and Robert Meachem are veterans who are comfortable in the offense, but neither has been a threat so far this season.
The Patriots defense is likely to be without both starting defensive tackles with Vince Wilfork out for the season and veteran Tommy Kelly injured last week. Against a team with a threat of a running game, New England would be in trouble. Rookie defensive tackles Joe Vellano and Chris Jones were both the weakest links on the Patriots defense, as they were both received negative grades by (Jones -2.4 and Vellano -5.6) mostly for their lack of production stopping the Cincinnati rushing attack.
Expect the Patriots to show different looks at defensive tackle throughout the game. While the Patriots depth at the position is thin (rookies Chris Jones, Joe Vellano, and street free agent Andre Neblett), expect the Patriots to attempt to get pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees with combinations of defensive ends (Jake Bequette, Chandler Jones, and Michael Buchanan) and linebackers (Brandon Spikes and Jamie Collins) especially on passing downs to get pressure on Brees...Click here for more:


Posted by Hal Bent

Happy Friday!  Playoff baseball is in full swing: The Boston Red Sox are in ALCS (mad cheering from the New England contingent of YouGabSports)....Oakland and Detroit battle it out for the final spot in the American League Championship Series...St. Louis and Los Angeles get ready to duke it out in the National League Championship Series.

The NFL is on, the NHL is back, and the NBA has started their preseason games as every fan hope and wishes that LeBron James and the annoying Miami Heat take a nosedive this season.   It’s great to have hockey back, and it’s especially nice when there is no lockout of bologna delaying the start of the season. Those readers who hate soccer have no worries about reading anything about Everton as I’ve completely blocked out last weekend’s beatdown by ManCity. Fortunately, they have a week off to get their defense straightened out and get ready for Hull City (a much easier matchup).

College Football Saturday Preview:

Here’s what I see as my big three games:

First off, Penn State vs Michigan.  That game is not going to be the draw it was in years past, but these are two famous (or lately Penn State seems infamous) programs. Michigan needs to run the ball to win, and I’m interested to see tight end Devin Funchess as he seems to be a potential NFL player. Penn State runs out freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, so if he is able to get in rhythm, it could be a tough day for the spotty Michigan secondary.

Second big game, Oregon vs Washington.  The Ducks are five and zero and this Huskies team could be their first real competition of the season. The Huskies played a heck of a game against Stanford, and need the win this week. They’re at home, and need all the help they can with Oregon having defeated them nine straight games. The Huskies have an up-tempo offense, but Oregon runs plays at warp speed. Washington will want to control tempo with back Bishop Sankey,  who has been playing well. A big game for Sankey could put him in Heisman discussions. For the Ducks, quarterback Marcus Mariota has 14 touchdowns and zero picks in five games. If running back De’Anthony Thomas if finally fully healthy from his ankle problem, a couple big plays could quiet the crowd in a hurry.

Third, Texas vs Oklahoma.  Usually, this game is guaranteed to be two top-ten squads facing off at the Cotton Bowl. This year, the Longhorns are about two touchdown dogs in the Red River Rivalry.  Oklahoma has won three years in a row (Texas fans don’t want to acknowledge last year).  To have a prayer for the upset, the Longhorns need to do things: get pressure on Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell.  No pressure equals no chance.  On offense, the ‘Horns would have to have a huge game from running back Johnathan Gray.  If he gets going (and Oklahoma is missing top linebacker Corey Nelson, so the opportunity is there.  I’d love to see a close game, and am rooting for the Longhorns, but think that Bell is going to be abusing the Texas secondary all morning.

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For the record (I know this was touched upon earlier in the week), I love that the NFL is going to decide which team has cameras shoved down their throat over the summer for the HBO Hard Knocks series.  I love Hard Knocks, and am giddy in anticipation of the league eventually forcing the HBO crew on Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots (technically it can’t happen if the team has made the playoffs in consecutive season, as New England had done, but let me run with this thought anyway). The “A Football Life” episode by NFL Films on Belichick was a tour de force, with him in the meetings behind the scenes, on the sidelines, his reaction returning to Meadowlands one last was fantastic. Also, former columnist and current talking head (what a decline in credibility) Michael Holley was given unprecedented access for the 2002 season in Patriot Reign, another insanely fascinating look into the world of Bill Belichick.  

In those cases, Belichick (for whatever reason) was onboard with the project. I know that with “A Football Life” he had come out and stated how he has respect for the NFL Films and especially the Sabol family. With Michael Holley, who knows. Maybe he wanted to chronicle the season as an experiment.  But the idea of the league forcing it upon him without his consent is just a magical idea. I read a piece by a local blogger that such a season of Hard Knocks would be boring beyond belief, but I could not disagree more. Imagine the dirty looks at the camera, the condescending statements, the disdain! Oh, it would be the best and most entertaining television since “Curb Your Enthusiasm” ended (Larry David starring as Bill Belichick...what a great tv show that would be...quick, some major network hire me to pitch tv pilot ideas). Entertaining television is all about conflict...and that would be the best conflict ever!

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Thursday Night Special:
Prediction: NY Giants 18 vs Chicago Bears 38:
Oh, you know how I’d pick here.  Zero and six? More Eli interceptions. Still bitter about those two Super Bowls? You know it! I’m posting this before kickoff, so I leave myself open for ridicule in the comments (lucky me, no one on Monday hauls out my picks for a good laugh!)

Prediction: Green Bay 48 vs Baltimore 24:
Neither of these teams seem up to last year’s strong play.  Aaron Rodgers should be able to torch the weakened Baltimore defense (He’s not Tannehill, who got pummelled last week). The Ravens are giving up big passing plays...Jordy Nelson fantasy football owners are salivating. Joe Flacco may not throw five interceptions this week, but he is not winning these games like he would have last year.

Prediction: Detroit 10 vs Cleveland 13
No Calvin Johnson?  That means stop Reggie Bush and unleash Barkevious Mingo at Matthew Stafford.  Cleveland is not running the ball, so they have to try to stop the Detroit pass rush.  Not sure there turns out to be much scoring, but Cleveland is a team of destiny.  Of course, if Megatron plays, change the 10 to 24 and Detroit wins...

Prediction: St Louis 10 vs Houston 24
Expect Houston to run the ball early and often.  I have no faith in Sam Bradford, especially with J.J. Watt in his grill. All anyone wants to see really is if Matt Schaub throws another pick-six. I say yes.

Prediction: Oakland 20 vs Kansas City 24
Why not. Kansas City could be 6-0? Hey, I want KC vs Denver to be two undefeated teams when they matchup. Oakland has played pretty well on defense, but their offense is inconsistent still. Close, but no cigar, for the Raiders.

Prediction: Carolina 24 vs Minnesota 21
Two marquee stars: Cam Newton and Adrian Peterson.  Neither has been breaking out with a big game. Why should this week be any different?

Prediction: Pittsburgh 21 vs New York Jets 20
God, the Jets can’t be 4-2! Was Atlanta really as bad as they looked on Monday night versus the Jets. The Jets couldn’t have been that good, right? That said, the Steelers can’t be this bad, are they? OK, maybe they are...but they can beat the Jets, right?

Prediction: Philadelphia 31 vs Tampa Bay 20
Nick Foles should be an upgrade for Philadelphia, and Tampa Bay is out-of-sync and hardly looking capable of pulling out a win. Will Tampa get all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis on his island again instead of dropping into zones? That’s like asking Babe Ruth to bunt, or have Jerry Rice stay in and block on every play. Let him play his game and make life easier for the defense, rather than force him into a role that limits his effectiveness. That’s the crap that gets a coach fired.

Prediction: Jacksonville 21 vs Denver 20
Nah, I’m joking. Jacksonville 13 vs Denver 42 looks right.

Prediction: Tennessee 9 vs Seattle 27
Chris Johnson could have run against this defense...five years ago. If Tennessee had anyone but Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, they’d have at least a shot at a win. Fitz sucks. Seattle is angry after losing last week. Sorry, Titans. Not a good spot to be in.

Prediction: New Orleans 27 vs New England 34
I’m not ready to go all in on the New Orleans defense. It’s improved, but not that great. I think safety Devin McCourty is key in keeping Drew Brees from completing those deep passes over the top. I’d feel better with any safety other than Steve “Wow, look at that receiver run past me” Gregory out there as well, but I expect Bill Belichick to pull out a trick or two on defense.

Prediction: Arizona 16 vs San Francisco 34
San Francisco needed a game to get back on track...hey it’s Arizona! Carson Palmer versus Colin Kaepernick? That matchup is like a battle of Neanderthals versus the US Marines.

Prediction: Washington 24 vs Dallas 27
RGIII has the bye week to get his knee just a bit better.  Washington should have copied New England with Rob Gronkowski and kept RGIII under wraps until he REALLY ready to play.  Dallas has to be so down after last week. That said, they should be able to get up for this one. Sunday night, and--hey NBC--bring back Faith Hill already. My Buddy G and my 12 year old son are all upset about this. There’s some free marketing feedback for you, NBC.

Prediction: Indianapolis 27 vs San Diego 24
San Diego is much better than anticipated, but can Philip Rivers outduel Andrew Luck? Will I be awake on Monday night when this game comes to a dramatic conclusion in the fourth quarter? (Hint: Probably not.)  Either way, expect Indy to have just enough.

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OK, Gabbers, that’s all I have for this week. Have a great fall weekend! Thanks as always for reading! New England Patriots’ Top 2019 NFL Draft Picks Show Evolution on Both Sides of the Ball

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