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Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs Raiders!

10.01.11 at 9:15 am ET
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The Patriots have the Boston sports spotlight to themselves this weekend as they visit the resurgent Raiders on Sunday afternoon trying to put last week’s disappointing loss behind them. Here are some numbers to ponder:

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* – New England has now scored 31 or more points in 11 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the NFL since at least 1970:

11 – Patriots (2010-11)
9 – Patriots (2006-07)
8 – Rams (1999-2000)

Note this: The Raiders have scored 31 or more points in five of their last seven games.

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* – New England’s 495 yards last week was their FEWEST in their last four games, dating back to last season. In their previous 28 games, their MOST total yards was 477.

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* – The Raiders have scored two or more rushing touchdowns in the first half in each of their last two games. It’s the first time they’ve done that in consecutive games since they began tracking the stat in 1991.

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* – Last Sunday was just the second time since 1997 that the Patriots have lost a game despite scoring 14 or more points in the first quarter. The other was a 31-30 loss to Miami in 1999.

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* – The Patriots have had six rushes of 10 or more yards this season, but here’s what looks good: If you eliminate all the rushing plays of 10 or more yards, the Pats‘ are still averaging 3.33 yards per carry, the highest such average in the NFL so far:

3.33 – Patriots
3.22 – Cardinals
3.20 – Colts

The Patriots ranked second at this last season, averaging 3.01 yards on “cloud of dust” carries.

Note this: Oakland is averaging just 2.26 yards on cloud of dust rushes, ranked 26th.

Note this too: Both defenses have been adept at limiting cloud of dust rushing plays as New England ranks sixth (2.20) and Oakland is fourth (2.11).

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* – The Raiders have rushed for a league high eight touchdowns this season. No other team has more than four. They haven’t led the league in rushing TD’s since 1982, back in Marcus Allen’s heyday.

————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

A preview of Friday night’s edition of ‘Patriots All Access’

09.30.11 at 4:56 pm ET
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Patriots All Access airs Friday on WBZ-TV at 7 p.m. and immediately following on Patriots.com.

Among the highlights:

‘€¢ Scott Zolak sits down with coach Bill Belichick to discuss the Buffalo loss and preview the Raiders. Coach Belichick also examines Oakland’€™s speed on the Belestrator.

‘€¢ Steve Burton visits with cornerback Kyle Arrington, who leads the Patriots in interceptions.

‘€¢ Matt Light‘€™s Celebrity Shootout is featured, including Light’€™s commitment to his cause and participation from his teammates.

‘€¢ Christian Fauria and Zolak explore some of the ways the Raiders may deploy running back Darren McFadden on Sunday.

Here’s a quick preview:

Bill Belichick: Al Davis is no copycat but instead one ‘great mind’

09.30.11 at 4:52 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The National Football League is often called a league of copycats.

Bill Belichick recognizes this. But the Patriots coach says Raiders longtime owner Al Davis is no copycat. As a matter of fact, he is his own man.

He reminded everyone of that on Friday, when asked about the mark Davis has left on the game.

Belichick is a historian of the game, someone who has smartly taken things from other great coaches and coordinators in the past and adapted. What mark did Davis leave on him, defensively, when you look back at Raiders teams from the ‘€˜60s and ‘€˜70s?

“Well, you look at the same thing today, there’€™s not a lot of difference,” Belichick said Friday. “He’€™s really run the defense and to a large extent the kicking game out there for the ‘€˜60s, ‘€˜70s, 80’€™s, 90’€™s ‘€“ 40 years, maybe more than that, I don’€™t know. But he’€™s, again they have their style of play, they have their way of doing things. As much as you can say this is a copycat league and things like that, you can’€™t really say that about them because they’€™ve done the same thing now for decades defensively and to a certain extent, offensively.”

Before becoming one of the most iconic owner in all of sports, Davis established himself as one of the great defensive minds in the game. Yes, Al Davis, the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders.

“Through the course of my career, I’€™ve had the opportunity, just as luck would have it really, that some people that I was very close to in coaching were in that organization. In talking football, I feel like I know a lot about what they do, how they do it, again through third parties now, not directly, but through third parties. It makes a lot of sense.”

With players like Ted Hendricks, Mike HaynesLester Hayes, Lyle Alzado and of course, Jack Tatum, Davis built a defensive team around two concepts – speed and intimidation. Remember, Davis coined the expression, “the quarterback must go down and he must go down hard.”

“They definitely have a plan,” Belichick said. “I think I understand basically what they’€™re trying to do and how they’€™re trying to do it. I think it’€™s consistent and I’€™ve taken a lot from that. The personnel side of it, the way they look at certain things in the game and what their priorities are. I definitely have tried to look at those and incorporate some of them into what we do. We do things a little bit differently than they do, but that’€™s okay. You just want it to be consistent and you want it to finish at the end game ‘€“ where you want to be. That’€™s what everybody is trying to do. It’€™s well thought-out. I don’€™t think it’€™s a trial-and-error system. It’€™s a proven system, they believe in it and they’€™re going to follow it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Al Davis, Bill Belichick, Jack Tatum, Lester Hayes

If Terry Francona is out, Bill Belichick says he’ll stay ‘good friends’ with him

09.30.11 at 1:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As reports were surfacing Friday morning at a breakneck pace on the expected departure of Terry Francona from the Red Sox, Patriots coach Bill Belichick reiterated his respect for the man who helped end the 86-year World Series title drought in Boston.

“Yeah, Terry and I are good friends,” Belichick said of Francona’s reported impending departure. “I didn’€™t realize that that had happened. But great manager, I’€™m sure that there are a lot of people in baseball that would like to have his record, including the championships. I’€™ll certainly miss his presence in this area. I’€™m sure we’€™ll be friends and still talk and see each other and so forth.”

Belichick, who owns a home in Palm Beach, Fla., would often take time out in March to travel across the state and visit Francona during spring training in Fort Myers.

“That’€™s disappointing, you know, on a personal level because I like Terry. As I said, he’€™s certainly had a great record as the manager of the Red Sox. Whatever it was, a hundred and some years without any championships and then they win two of them. That speaks for itself right there.

Belichick said he plans to reach out to Francona, when and if the announcement becomes official but would not reveal what he would say to him.

“Any conversations I have, those are private conversations,” Belichick said. “They’€™re not public.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Boston Red Sox, MLB, New England Patriots

Peter King on M&M: ‘We’ll just see if there’s enough talent there to fix’ Patriots defense

09.30.11 at 12:36 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Friday for his weekly discussion about the Patriots. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

New England travels to Oakland Sunday for a meeting with the 2-1 Raiders, who are led by running back Darren McFadden.

“I think the key question in this game and the key factor in this game, it all has to do with Darren McFadden,” King said. “Because Darren McFadden tweaked a groin muscle last week against the Jets. If he’s right, if he’s whole, he’s fully healthy, I’d say it’s either him or Adrian Peterson, it’s neck and neck for who the best back in football is right now. And clearly, you could make an argument for McFadden.

“If he’s healthy, this is a fourth-quarter game. If the Patriots run away with this game and McFadden’s healthy, it says to me that obviously, Bill Belichick does a great job getting his team back after a loss, getting the team to refocus and to understand they’re not as good as they thought they were.

“But the biggest question for me in this game, aside from that, is are they going to be able to get pressure on Jason Campbell, and are they going to be able to get coverage on these good young receivers? Nobody in New England has heard of Denarius Moore, but he all of a sudden overnight has become a threat for the Raiders. Those are the two things I really wonder about — their ability to play McFadden and then their ability to get some rush. You know they’re going to score some points, and probably a lot of them. If it’s going to be 38-35 again, eventually that’s going to doom the Patriots. They have to find a way to get to the quarterback better than they have so far.”

King said fans worried about the Patriots defense can take heart knowing that it’s gotten better over the past few seasons, and there is hope for more improvement this year.

“It’s only been three games, so there’s plenty of time to come out of this,” King said. “There’s no reason for people to be jumping off buildings. Because Belichick’s the smartest guy in the league when it comes to fixing what is wrong during the season. We’ll just see if there’s enough talent there to fix it.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Darren McFadden, Peter King,

Michael Lombardi on D&C: Albert Haynesworth needs to be ready for November, December

09.30.11 at 9:30 am ET
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NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi joined the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to talk about the Patriots and other NFL news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots struggled defensively Sunday against the Bills, leading to their first loss of the season.

“I think they’re a work in progress on defense,” Lombardi said. “After the Miami game I thought they were really coming along and making some steps in terms of their ability to put pressure [on the quarterback]. And certainly there were plays [vs.] San Diego that they did. Last week it was disappointing. But you have to understand, last week the ball came out so quickly, that they’ve only given up one sack in Buffalo. If Buffalo ran a normal offense where they were straight drop-back, five- and seven-step drops, their offensive line would get exposed. But because of the system they run, it’s very difficult to hit the quarterback.”

Albert Haynesworth was supposed to provide a lift to the defense, but the oft-injured lineman missed the Bills game. Lombardi said Haynesworth’s true value won’t be known until the final month of the season.

“I think the jury’s still out on that,” he said. “If you watch Albert in the first game, if you watch him against Miami and if you watch him against San Diego, he was providing some of those things [in the pass rush]. Last week obviously he was hurt with his back injury.

“Look, this game’s about November, December. And I think the key component for Albert Haynesworth isn’t whether he plays tremendously in the month of September, it’s can he be a force in November and December when they have to win those games and win playoff games. And I think that’s really the goal for Albert Haynesworth. I’m not saying he should take time off now, but I think because of no offseason program, because of no real training camp, I think it’s most important to get him in shape, get him healthy, and then get him ready for November and December.”

The Patriots play in Oakland Sunday against the resurgent Raiders, who have taken advantage of their all-around speed. The line play could be a key factor. Said Lombardi: “The offensive line is another line, like Buffalo, that can become exposed with the pass rush, especially because they’re not that talented, but they get rid of the ball very quickly.”

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Michael Lombardi,

Devin McCourty on D&C: ‘This week is going to be big’

09.30.11 at 8:32 am ET
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Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning, as the Patriots prepare for Sunday’s game against the Raiders in Oakland. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

“This week is going to be big,” McCourty said. “We’re focused, we’re ready to go. Everybody’s going out there Sunday and competing.”

The Raiders are coming off a victory over the Jets, and they have shown signs that they could be a plus-.500 team for the first time in nine seasons. Their top attribute is their team speed.

“Their speed is all over the field, at every skill position. That team flies,” McCourty said. “They take the opportunity to make big plays by getting athletes the ball. You’ve got a quarterback, [Jason] Campbell, he’s an athlete, too. You have to be prepared all over the field because they have guys who can run, they’re very athletic. So, we have to be very disciplined.”

Running back Darren McFadden is off to a fast start in his fourth season in the NFL.

“He’s a tough guy to bring down,” McCourty said. “He runs hard, and then he’s the same way, he has that speed. When he does break out, he’s not a usual running back. You’re not going to catch him. So, you got to keep him contained.”

McCourty was under the microscope after being targeted repeatedly by the Bills in Sunday’s loss. Asked how he compares his game to last year, when he shined as a rookie, McCourty said: “I think it’s been the same. Even last year at this point, just trying to improve each week and trying to get better. A week from today I want to be better than I was last week.”

Read More: Darren McFadden, Devin McCourty, Jason Campbell,
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