Sunday, October 13, 2013

MusketFire.com: 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: http://musketfire.com/2013/10/13/new-england-patriots-win-dramatic-fashion-vs-new-orleans-saints/

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 ProFootballFocus.com (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: http://www.h4-entertainment.com/2013/10/new-england-patriots-face-tough-home-test-versus-new-orleans/

YouGabSports: HAL B.’s FANTASTIC FRIDAY SPORTS SPECTACULAR - 10/11/2013

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.

* * *

NFL NOTES:

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 time...it 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!

* * *

NFL PICKS:

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.

* * *

OK, Gabbers, that’s all I have for this week. Have a great fall weekend! Thanks as always for reading!

Cover32.com: New England looks to bounce back at home vs. New Orleans

By 

The rabbit foot, the four leaf clover, the horseshoe, and the wishbone were used up in the first four games of the season and the New England Patriots finally ran out of luck and dropped their first game of the season in Week 5 versus the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a game highlighted by offensive frustration as the Patriots were without several key weapons and several more contributors were playing noticeably dinged up. The Patriots put out an anemic offensive performance and wasted a strong defensive performance losing 13-6 to the Bengals in their second consecutive road game versus a 2012 playoff team. Now looming in Week 6 is a return to Foxborough, MA to face the rejuvenated and undefeated New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon.
Against Cincinnati, the theme was missed opportunities as dropped passes (six more by the Patriots’ backs and receivers, with newly active wide receiver Danny Amendola with three drops and running back Brandon Bolden with two drops) and poor execution on offense doomed another strong defensive performance. Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was quiet in the passing game, likely due to a combination of extra attention after his play in the first quarter of the season and a nagging injury. Fellow rookie Aaron Dobson had another quiet showing in the passing game as well.
The Patriots suffered primarily from a surprisingly poor performance up front by left guard Logan Mankins. Throughout the first quarter of the season, Mankins and tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder were the strong backbone that allowed the Patriots offense to motor forward with just enough production to win. Last Sunday against the Bengals, tackle Geno Atkins had a field day blowing up the middle of the offensive line and opening the floodgates to get the Patriots’ quarterback on the ground consistently and disrupt the rhythm of the passing game. With three sacks, three hits, and six hurries, the Bengals defense won the fight in the trenches.
This week, the New Orleans Saints bring a multiple-weapon offense and an improving defense to Foxborough. On offense, the Patriots matchup against the talented Drew Brees. Despite the disappointing season last year, Brees threw over 40 touchdowns and 5,200 yards. His top target is the best tight end in the NFL not named Rob Gronkowski in tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham is a wide receiver in a tight end’s body and has continued to progress as he has six touchdowns in five games and almost 600 yards receiving. Finally, the third weapon in the arsenal is running back Darren Sproles. Sproles is a weapon like no other in the league with top-end receiving talent and off-the-chart quickness in the open field.
Unlike Cincinnati and Atlanta, where the Patriots had the defensive game plan to take away one weapon (wide receiver Julio Jones and wide receiver A.J. Green) and let the other nine defenders do the rest, that plan goes out the window this week. Just matching-up with Graham is a headache, and Sproles has to be accounted for every time he steps on the field. Even taking away both of those, Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks at simply finding whoever is open and getting the ball to him in a hurry. Top wide receiver Marques Colston is having his usual excellent season, and running back Pierre Thomas has established himself as a receiving threat as well out of the backfield.
The one weakness for New Orleans has been running the ball, and without Patriots’ defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (and Tommy Kelly’s knee injury status still unclear) the opportunity to try to get their running game going may be too strong for the Saints to resist. This year they have averaged 3.1 yards per carry with Pierre Thomas averaging less than 3.0 yards per carry. Backup (and first round pick from a trade with New England) Mark Ingram is averaging less than two yards per carry and is in danger of being passed on the depth chart by undrafted free agent Khiry Robinson.
On defense, the change in philosophy has been a huge factor in the Saints’ turnaround...Click here for more: http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/10/09/new-england-looks-to-bounce-back-at-home-vs-new-orleans/

MusketFire.com: New England Patriots Recap on Loss Vs. Cincinnati Bengals

BY  - 
Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati was the definition of “frustration” for the New England Patriots.  While another strong defensive effort was put forth by the New England defense, the Patriots offense was unable to get in gear all game long. As the skies opened up and the rain fell in the fourth quarter, the Patriots opened up their offense, but it was too little, too late against a strong Bengals defense.

The Patriots offense never got anything going against Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike “How in the World Has No One Hired Him as a Head Coach Yet?” Zimmer throughout the entire game.  After a trading punts to open the second half, Cincinnati finally made some headway against New England working the middle of the field much like Atlanta had done with tight end Tony Gonzalez the week previous. While Cincinnati got to the 25 yard line, a sack by linebacker Jerod Mayo put the Bengals at the 32 yard line where they settled for a 50 yard field goal.

After another ineffective Patriots drive, the Bengals finally found the end zone as they punched it in to take a 13-3 lead. The Bengals had some strong running by both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Gio Bernard to get down the field on an extended drive and get six on the board.  The Patriots responded immediately, as quarterback Tom Brady found rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson on a 56 yard pass. Unfortunately, Dobson fumbled, then recovered, and New England was on the 17 yard line. A pass to a diving danny Amendola put New England inside the one yard line.

After running back Legarrette Blount was stopped on first down, the Patriots called a strange play: trying to complete a pass to tackle Nate Solder. On third down, Brady could not connect with wide receiver Julien Edelman, and the Cincinnati Bengals had a huge goal line stand to force the Patriots to kick a field goal.


After a fumble by Cincinnati’s rookie running back Gio Bernard, New England looked ready to tie the game up. However, the Patriots went incompletion, incompletion, and sack and punted away to the Bengals with 2:40 left to play...Click here for more: http://musketfire.com/2013/10/06/new-england-patriots-recap-loss-vs-cincinnati-bengals/

GetRealFootball.com: New England Patriots: Three Key Factors From Sunday’s Loss to the Bengals

Posted on  by Hal Bent
The New England Patriots lost their first game of the season to theCincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon.  When a team does not score a touchdown, it is hard for them to walk away with a victory, and this game was no exception.  The key to the game was in the trenches, and New England lost the battle on both sides of the ball, but especially on offense. A Patriots defense only allowing one touchdown should be an automatic win, but that was not the way of the game. In fact, here are three key factors that led to the Patriots loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

1. Breaking Brady:

Tom Brady had a bad game.  That’s what it boils down to at the end of the day. When Brady struggles, the team (unless they have Richard Seymour, Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, and either Rodney Harrison or Lawyer Milloy on defense) is not very likely to notch a win.  With a dinged up receiving corps, Brady had some issues with the receivers as a returning from injury, but out-of-sync wide receiver Danny Amendola dropped three passes and second year running  back Brandon Bolden added a couple of drops as well.
Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was clearly limited and struggled to get open against a sub-par Cincinnati secondary. Slot wide receiver Julian Edelman only caught two of five targets as did rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson. If there was a game that the team desperately missed all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski in the passing game, this was the game.  
Especially galling was when Danny Amendola’s rolling reception was downed at the one yard line. First off, it was surprising that New England did not challenge the ruling he was contacted by the Cincinnati defender and down before the ball crossed the goal line. Second, the team ran LeGarrette Blount behind tackle Nate Solder and guard Logan Mankins on first down. Then, the team went to trickery and tried to connect with left tackle eligible receiver Nate Solder on a ridiculous call. Finally, on third down and goal, the Patriots missed running back Stevan Ridley and his nose for the end zone as they tried to connect to their shortest receiver (Edelman) in a goal line situation rather than try to power the ball into the end zone.
Quarterback Tom Brady did not throw an interception until the last drive of the game when the team was out of timeouts and the clock was ticking down. But again, his accuracy and sync with the receivers was a point of contention. Of course, the biggest factor to stopping Brady (as the New York Giants of 2007 and 2012 can attest to) is getting pressure with a four man rush up the middle of the offensive line. Cincinnati put Brady on his back with pressure, knock-downs, and sacks with regularity on Sunday.
2. O-Line was No Line:
The offensive line for the Patriots served up a stinker...click here for more: http://www.getrealfootball.com/new-england-patriots-three-key-factors-sundays-loss-bengals/#

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-...