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Ex-Patriots RB Curtis Martin a HOF finalist

01.09.11 at 3:36 pm ET
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Former Patriots running back Curtis Martin is one of 17 finalists who were announced Sunday as finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Martin, a third-round pick of New England in 1995, rushed for 3,799 yards in three seasons with the Patriots, including 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie. In all, he played 11 seasons in the NFL, finishing with 14,101 rushing yards and 90 touchdowns.

Martin, a finalist in his first year of eligibility, joins an illustrious list of finalists, one that includes fellow first-timers Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Willie Roaf and Deion Sanders. They will be joined by 10 others: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, Charles Haley, Cortez Kennedy, Andre Reed, Ed Sabol and Shannon Sharpe. In addition, there are two senior nominees, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, who were announced in August.

The Selection Committee will meet in North Texas on Feb. 5 to elect the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011. The election results will be announced at 7 p.m. during a one-hour NFL Network special, live from the Super Bowl Media Center.

Bits from Bill Belichick on the Jets: ‘The best two out of three’

01.09.11 at 3:11 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick just wrapped up a conference call with the media that lasted roughly 10 minutes. Here are a few quick highlights from the Q&A:

Opening statement: “It was a really, pretty exciting game last night. Both teams were right there at the end. It looked like it could have gone either way. Jets made the plays they had to make at the end of the game and won it, and that was kind of what we all think playoff football as being ‘€” two good teams playing right down to the wire, and so now we can get ready for them. We split with them this year and now, it’ll be the best two out of three ‘€” probably the way it should be. We’ll find out which team will advance next week. It’s a big challenge for us. I don’t the the last game or even the first game, either one of those means a whole lot. Both teams know each other well, and we’re up for a … ready for a whole new week of preparation, even though we’re familiar with them and they’re familiar with us, it seems like every time you play a team, games go a lot differently.”

What stands out to you that’s different than the Jets from what you saw on Dec. 6? “Oh, I think they’re pretty much the same team. Obviously, they didn’t have a good night that night, but they do a good job running the ball. They have some big play receivers and tight ends. They do what they do on defense ‘€” play a lot of man coverage. They’re very physical on the front line. They’re very good in the kicking game. Good return game ‘€” that was a big play for them last night on the kick return after the field goal. I think they’re a solid team. They’re record reflects that. I don’t think they’re a whole lot different than really what they’ve been all year. They do a lot of things well.”

How does the atmosphere change the dynamic of two teams who are so familiar with each other? “I think everybody knows what the importance of the game is. I don’t think it changes it a whole lot. I mean we all know this is a one-game season, so we’ll just prepare for it that way, both teams will give it their best, and we’ll see what happens.”

Is it hard for teams to change anything at this time of year, or does familiarity come into it? Are teams are who they are at this time of year? “You’ve had 16 or 17 games, whatever it is, not counting preseason. Another 100 or something practices. I think everybody’s probably got a lot of options in their playbook or in their system. It’s a question of what you want to do, what you feel like is best to choose from in the selections that you have and how you match up and how you want to play against each team that you’re up against. I’m sure everybody has a lot of options at this point.”
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning, playoffs, Rex Ryan

New York’s win over Indianapolis sets up Patriots-Jets, Part 3

01.08.11 at 11:46 pm ET
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Get ready for Patriots-Jets III.

On the strength of a 32-yard field goal from Nick Folk at the buzzer, New York beat the Colts 17-16 Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (recap) to set up a matchup next Sunday at Gillette Stadium between the Patriots and the Jets.

Moments after the game, bombastic New York coach Rex Ryan deflected questions about the impending matchup between New England and New York, saying his team earned the 12 hours to celebrate the win.

“Right now I’m just going to focus on the Colts,” Ryan said. “I think we’ve earned about 12 hours of enjoying this victory. This is a great football team. We beat them at their place, beat Peyton Manning at their place. I don’t know if that’s been done a whole heck of a lot. I know it hasn’t been done by a team that I’ve been on, so I’m just going to focus on the Colts right now.”

The Patriots-Jets divisional playoff meeting will be the third game of the season between the two hated rivals.

New York captured the first contest, a Week 2 matchup at the New Meadowlands by a 28-14 score. In that one, the Patriots held a 14-10 lead heading into the half, but 18 second-half points from the Jets made the difference in the first loss of the season for New England.

But a midseason makeover on the offensive side of the ball ‘€” one that included the trades of Randy Moss and Laurence Maroney, as well as the re-acquisition of Deion Branch and the emergence of Danny Woodhead ‘€” helped re-energize the New England offense. It was believed by some NFL analysts that these changes were made with a specific goal in mind: To beat the Jets.

‘€œThey are building this team specifically to beat the Jets,’€ NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger told in late October. ‘€œYou are not going to beat the Jets by taking seven-step drops and looking for Randy Moss 50 yards down the field. You beat the Jets by getting the ball to the quicker guys who can beat coverage. Between [Julian] Edelman, [Wes] Welker, [Deion] Branch and [Danny] Woodhead, that’€™s what they are doing. All of these changes are designed to beat the Jets.’€

Those changes were evident when the two teams met the second time. The Patriots demolished the Jets on Dec. 6 at Gillette Stadium, 45-3. In that game, New England busted out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back on the way to an easy win, as quarterback Tom Brady went 21-for-29 for 326 yards and four touchdowns.

For his part, Ryan has made no secret of the way he feels about the Patriots. When he was named head coach of the Jets in 2009, he said, “I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick‘s, you know, rings.” Earlier this season, he told Newsday, he wanted to “kick Bill Belichick’s ass.” And in the days leading up to New York’s playoff game against the Colts, he took another swipe at New England, saying that nobody prepares harder than Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. “I know Brady thinks he does. I think there’s probably a little more help with Belichick with Brady than there is with Peyton Manning.”

While these two teams have enjoyed a twice-a-year rivalry, this marks the first time since the 2006 postseason where the two have met in the playoffs. That year, New England won a wild card contest against New York, 37-16, in a game at Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Bill Belichick, brian baldinger, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch

Patriots waive DL Atiyyah Ellison

01.08.11 at 5:46 pm ET
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The Patriots have waived defensive lineman Atiyyah Ellison, according to Mac’s Football Blog. (UPDATE, 5:46 PM: A league source has confirmed the news to The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder out of Missouri was signed last week after New England suspended rookie defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick. However, with Deaderick reinstated on Friday and the seven-day roster exemption for rookie inside linebacker Brandon Spikes set to expire on Monday, the Patriots needed to make a move to get down to the 53-man limit.

Read More: Atiyyah Ellison, Brandon Deaderick, Brandon Spikes,

Nuggetpalooza’s NFL Playoffs Preview – Sunday’s Games

01.08.11 at 10:54 am ET
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Get ready for all of Sunday’s playoff action in the NFL with a bunch of statistical observations that you probably won’t find elsewhere!


RAVENS (11-5) at CHIEFS (10-6)


* – This blew me away: The Ravens have not allowed a touchdown in the third quarter in their last 25 games.  In that same span, every other NFL team has allowed at least six such touchdowns and the average number allowed is 13.2.


* – Baltimore’s scoring totals have taken a dive recently.  Here are their totals for weeks 13-16:  34, 30, 20, 13.


* – After averaging 25.9 points over their first 11 games, they’ve managed just 16.2 over their last five, scoring 10 or
fewer in three of them.  Only three other teams scored 10 or fewer three times in their last five games: Carolina, Cleveland, and Miami.


* – The Ravens have scored 20 or more points in each of their last five road games.  It’s the first such streak within a
single season in club history.


* – Kansas City’s 118 points allowed at home was the third fewest in the NFL this season:

107 – Jets
110 – Steelers
118 – Chiefs


* – The Ravens have been a very good defense right out of the locker room, allowing just 22 total points (five field goals
and one touchdown) on their opponents’ opening possession of the first and second halfs combined (0.69 points per
possession).  On all other possessions against the Ravens, opponents averaged 1.62 points per possession.


* – For some reason, both offenses were TERRIBLE on third down and short (three yards or fewer to go) in 2010.  Baltimore converted just 48.1 percent (ranked 29th) while the Chiefs were even worse (45.9 percent; 31st).  Compare those two to New England, the league leader at 76.4 percent.

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Analysis of Mike Wright’s move to injured reserve

01.07.11 at 4:52 pm ET
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The decision to move injured defensive linemen Mike Wright to season-ending injured reserve is hardly a surprise ‘€” Wright hasn’t been seen since he suffered a concussion in the Nov. 21 win over the Colts. (He hadn’t practiced since then, and had not been seen by the media in the locker room.) But the move is another sign that the Patriots are seriously thin along the defensive line as they head into the postseason.

The 28-year-old Wright is no Pro Bowler, but his familiarity with the system (he was signed as a rookie free agent out of Cincinnati in 2005) and his positional versatility (he has played all three spots on the defensive front in New England’s 3-4) made him a valuable asset for the Patriots. This season, he had played in 10 games with five starts, and finished the season with 17 total tackles and a career-high 5.5 sacks.

The loss of Wright hurts on a couple of levels. First, Wright is the team’s best interior pass rusher ‘€” in only 10 games, his 5.5 sacks were best on the team. Vince Wilfork has started to emerge as a pass-rushing threat up the middle the last few weeks, but Wright’s ability to get a consistent push up the middle will be hard to replicate.

Second, the loss of Wright will render the depth along the defensive line even thinner. This is a group that is getting great play from the likes of Wilfork and fellow veteran Gerard Warren, but because of injuries to Ty Warren, Ron Brace, Darryl Richard and Kade Weston (who have all gone on injured reserve), as well as injuries to Myron Pryor (who has struggled with a back problem) and a suspension to youngster Brandon Deaderick (who was reportedly reinstated on Friday), they have been forced to acquire players like Landon Cohen, Atiyyah Ellison and Eric Moore in an attempt to add depth. This also means more will be expected of rookie Kyle Love, who has started to play well as of late.

Wright is the 14th New England player to be placed on injured reserve since the start of training camp, a group that includes Warren, cornerback Leigh Bodden, safety Brandon McGowan, offensive linemen Nick Kaczur and Stephen Neal, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and running back Kevin Faulk.

Read More: Atiyyah Ellison, Brandon Deaderick, Brandon McGowan, Darryl Richard

Patriots place DL Mike Wright on season-ending injured reserve

01.07.11 at 4:27 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Friday afternoon they have placed defensive lineman Mike Wright on season-ending injured reserve. Wright suffered a concussion in New England’s win over the Colts on Nov. 21, and had been a no-show at practice and in games since that point. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Wright had only played in 10 games, but was the team leader in sacks on the season with 5.5. The 28-year-old out of Cincinnati, who was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent in 2005, finished the year with 17 total tackles.

Read More: Mike Wright,
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