|11.17.14 at 4:31 pm ET|
Five things you have to know about the Lions, who will face the Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
They are really, really good at defending the run.
The Lions are the best team in the league when it comes to run defense, holding opponents to an average of 68.8 rushing yards per game. Only one team — the Jets — have rushed for more than 80 yards against them. (New York finished with 132 rushing yards in a 24-17 loss to Detroit earlier in the season) In fact, only three teams in the last 20 regular-season games have topped 100 rushing yards in a game against the Lions, a remarkable feat for any team. Linebacker DeAndre Levy and defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are three of the best run defenders in the league at their positions, with Levy doing a great job cutting through the wash and flowing to the ball (he leads the team in tackles with 96) and Suh and Fairley creating a massive wall up front. As well as the New England offensive line and running game did last Sunday night against the Colts, the group will face a massive challenge this week with Detroit. They’re actually pretty good defensively across the board, as the Lions allow an average of 290.3 total yards per game (best in the league), 221.5 passing yards per game (fifth-best) and 15.6 points per game (best in the NFL).
Conversely, they struggle to run the ball.
On the surface, the Lions are pretty much a one-dimensional offensive team that pays only minimal attention to running the ball. Joique Bell (122 carries, 422 yards, three TDs) and Reggie Bush (53 carries, 191 yards, 1 TD) are the closest thing the Lions have to a nucleus when it comes to the ground game. The Lions have topped 100 rushing yards as a team just twice in the last 11 regular-season games, dating back to last year. (Bush does offer some value in the passing game, but even then, he’s not nearly what he used to be, having caught 25 passes through the first 10 games.) Bell, who was a target of the Patriots as an undrafted free agent coming out of Wayne State, is a 5-foot-11, 229-pound banger who is coming off his best game of the season, a 14-carry, 85-yard effort in a 14-6 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona.
|11.17.14 at 4:22 pm ET|
First Brown got duped by a fake Jonas Gray account and later deleted his response to said fake account.
‘ John Feitelberg (@JFeitelberg) November 17, 2014
Later in the day, Brown decided to rant against Gronkowski, claiming that he “put straps on that boy” and that Gronk blocked him out of bounds in an act of frustration because he “can’t do [poop emoji] inbetween the whistle”. Brown deleted the series of tweets a few minutes after concluding his rant, but thankfully screen grabs exist.
‘ PatriotsSB49 (@PatriotsSB49) November 17, 2014
We’ll let you know if anything else pops up on Brown’s Twitter feed.
|11.17.14 at 3:13 pm ET|
Following up on a column we wrote last week about the Patriots, their options in short yardage situations and how it all relates to their running game, it was interesting to see how New England approached things offensively Sunday night against the Colts. In all, the Patriots faced third down on 12 occasions against Indianapolis, and were able to convert in nine of those situations. Here’s a breakdown of what happened on each third-down situation (eight pass attempts, three runs, and one other):
3rd and 7 — 9-yard pass to Julian Edelman for first down
3rd and 1 — Jonas Gray run for 20 yards for first down
3rd and 3 — incomplete pass to Tim Wright
3rd and 3 — 20-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski for first down
3rd and 10 — 13-yard pass to Julian Edelman for first down
3rd and 1 — intercepted pass for Rob Gronkowski
3rd and 1 — Jonas Gray run for 2 yards for first down
3rd and 6 — 26-yard pass to Brandon LaFell for first down
3rd and 3 — 16-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski for first down
3rd and 2 — Indianapolis penalties yield first down
3rd and 4 — 26-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski for touchdown
3rd and 4 — Jonas Gray run for 5 yards for first down
When it came to 3rd and 3 or less — our definition of “gotta have it” yards, New England faced those scenarios on seven occasions Sunday. The Patriots ran in twice (handoffs to Gray, which produced runs of 20 and 2 yards) and threw it four times (including two 26-yard pass plays, one to Gronkowski and another to LaFell), with a seventh play ending in a penalty. It’s important to note that matchups and situational football often dictate play calling, but it was interesting to see them lean more on the passing game than on the backfield in those situations. (As a team, they were 5-for-7 on third down in those short-yardage situations.) As Gray (presumably) become a bigger part of their game plan as the season continues, 3rd and short will be worth monitoring to see if the running game becomes more of a factor in those situations.
|11.17.14 at 11:53 am ET|
Rob Gronkowski‘s biggest play of the game was his 26-yard touchdown catch and run late in the fourth quarter, but maybe more exciting was his blocking on Jonas Gray’s fourth touchdown run earlier in the quarter.
The Patriots tight end ran Colts safety Sergio Brown roughly five yards out of bounds and into a camera station, even after Gray had reached the end zone. The play drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty, but Gronkowski appeared frustrated with Brown as the two had gone back-and-forth all game.
“He was just yappin’ at me the whole time, so I took him and threw him out of the club,” Gronkowski said on NBCSN following the game.
The two players do have a history, as aside from being teammates during Brown’s time in New England, the safety was the player who Gronkowski was blocking on an extra-point attempt in 2012 where the tight end broke his forearm on the play.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|11.17.14 at 11:41 am ET|
ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ win over the Colts and other news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The victory over Indianapolis gives the Patriots six consecutive wins after a slow start to the season. Now that they are in command of first place in the AFC East, there is talk of them securing home-field advantage in the postseason.
“They’re playing very good football, and you trust the head coach, you trust the quarterback, you look at the different ways they’ve won,” said Hasselbeck. “Defensively, they’ve been impressive. And they have a history of having success this time of year and going forward. I look at their schedule, and still think they have a difficult schedule. They’re going to play good teams, teams that I think most people would think New England is better than, but that doesn’t mean you always win the game. Look, if I have to pick who’s going have home-field advantage throughout based on how teams are playing right now, I certainly would favor New England.”
Before Sunday night’s game, running back Jonas Gray was not a well-known commodity. But that was not the case after the game when he finished with 199 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Even Hasselbeck admitted he was not all that familiar with Gray.
Said Hasselbeck: “I’ve heard of him probably mostly because I do a decent amount of fantasy football stuff. You’re forced to learn the guys that get four touches a game prior to being thrust into that role. I knew his name, but certainly didn’t think he was going to rush for about two bills against the Colts.”
The hosts were surprised that Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano did not make many in-game adjustments to stop Gray.
Said Hasselbeck: “You look at the game last year and how [the Patriots] jammed it down [the Colts’] throat. It could be a thing where it was a little bit of as you get ready during the week and you try to identify who the Patriots are this year versus who they were last year with the backs that they had healthy at that time. They probably weren’t anticipating it. They were probably weren’t anticipating that was going to be the group that were going to be facing for a majority of the game. And I think the offensive staff did a nice job in terms of the runs that they had dialed up, with the angles that it put them in to get into position to make blocks. And then you have to give Gray credit for how hard he ran.”
|11.17.14 at 10:54 am ET|
Everyone remembers Rob Gronkowski‘s blocking on Jonas Gray’s fourth touchdown run of game in the fourth quarter where he blocked Colts safety Sergio Brown all the way to a camera stand about five yards off the sideline, but that wasn’t his only big block of the game.
The Patriots’ tight end played a major role in the team’s 244 yards on the ground in its 42-20 win over the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I thought Rob blocked competitively,” coach Bill Belichick said on Monday’s conference call. ” … Overall, a real good effort in the running game. Everybody that played — the tight ends, fullbacks, the offensive line. I thought Jonas ran the blocks well and got good yardage on the plays. There was certainly a lot of good blocking in front of him and Rob was a part of it.”
The Patriots eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark for the second time this season and the 12th time under Belichick. It was even more impressive, as the Colts entered the game ninth in the NFL against the run, allowing only 98.1 yards a game. All-time the Patriots are 65-7 when rushing for 200 yards or more, and 12-0 under Belichick.
Also, with Gray rushing for 199 yards on his own, the Patriots improved to 40-1 in the Belichick era when having a 100-yard rusher.
It was a team effort as the team got good blocking from fullback James Develin, the wide receivers, and utilized rookie Cameron Fleming as an extra lineman on a number of plays — per Pro Football Focus Fleming played 38 snaps.
“We had some good holes to run through and I thought Tom did a good job of getting us into the best play a couple of times or getting us out of a bad play in a couple of situations as well,” Belichick said. “It was a good team effort from the players and all the guys were part of it.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|11.17.14 at 3:18 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price explain how the Patriots, behind the four touchdowns of running back Jonas Gray, pounded the Colts, 42-20, Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. With their sixth straight win, the Patriots improve to 8-2, one game better than Kansas City and Denver in the AFC.