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James Ihedigbo: ‘There’s nothing to downplay’ against the Jets

11.10.11 at 2:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Forget the cliche: “Just another game.” This week’s game is more than that. The Jets know it. The Patriots know it.

And on Thursday, Patriots safety James Ihedigbo admitted it.

“There’s nothing to downplay,” Ihedigbo said. “There’s two 5-3 teams that are rivals in the same division, fighting for the same thing. So, there’s nothing to downplay about it. We definitely embrace it and embrace the challenge in front of us. And know that for us to win games like this, you have to play your best football.

“You’re always going to face adversity during the season. Losing two games in a row is not what you plan for but when it happens, you have to look at it, look at the mistakes you made and continue to press forward because if you dwell on it, two can turn to four quick. We’re focused. We’re focused on getting a win this week.”

What has to happen for the Patriots to get things turned around in a hostile environment? Getting a big play or two, or many, would be a good start.

“We’ve definitely talked as a defense,” Ihedigbo said. “Games like this, where lots is riding on the line and it’s a big game, you win games like this on how you practice during the week. And we made it a goal to have our best week of practice and our hardest week of practice. [Wednesday] was a step in the right direction.”

The Patriots played solid defense for the first three quarters on Sunday, and even got one of those very big plays – a Kyle Arrington interception in the end zone – before they melted down in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

“We’re very close and we’re looking to capitalize on that this week,” Ihedigbo said. “Big games like this, guys make big plays and step up. And that’s what it’s about and that’s we’re calling on as a team, and especially as a defense, to make game-changing plays this week.”

Ihedigbo could be called upon to make one of those big plays this Sunday night at his old stomping grounds in the swamps of Jersey. We know one target for Ihedigbo this week – running back Shonn Greene. He’s the man asked to take the weight of the offense off the shoulders of Mark Sanchez.

“They’ve really gotten their running game going,” Ihedigbo said. “Shonn Greene is a downhill runner and is running great, with a lot of power, finishing his runs. That sets up everything they want to do on offense when you have your running game going like that. Our guys up front, Mayo, Vince, they’re going to be ready to make plays in the run game.”

To Ihedigbo’s point, starting with the Patriots game on Oct. 9, when he ran 21 times for 83 yards and a touchdown, Greene has picked it up. He’s averaged 20 carries and 86 yards in the four games, the last three being wins. Against Miami and San Diego, he broke off runs of 20 and 24 yards, respectively.

Read More: James Ihedigbo, Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Target practice: Who has been Tom Brady’s favorite receiver through eight games?

11.10.11 at 12:53 pm ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains an imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. After eight games, here’€™s a look at the target breakdown in the New England passing game for the 2011 season:

Kevin Faulk: 5 catches on 5 targets (100 percent)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 5 catches on 6 targets (83 percent)
Stevan Ridley: 3 catches on 4 targets (75 percent)
Wes Welker: 66 catches on 93 targets (71 percent)
Rob Gronkowski: 44 catches on 62 targets (71 percent)
Aaron Hernandez: 33 catches on 50 targets (66 percent)
Danny Woodhead: 11 catches on 17 targets (65 percent)
Deion Branch: 32 catches on 51 targets (63 percent)
Chad Ochocinco: 9 catches on 21 targets (43 percent)
Julian Edelman: 3 catches on 7 targets (43 percent)
Matthew Slater: 1 catch on 3 targets (33 percent)
Taylor Price: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)
Dane Fletcher: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)
TOTAL: 212 catches on 321 targets (66 percent)

By position:
Running back: 24 catches on 32 targets (75 percent)
Tight end: 77 catches on 112 targets (69 percent)
Wide receiver: 111 catches on 176 targets (63 percent)
Other: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Chad Ochocinco, Dane Fletcher

On a serious note, Rex Ryan hopes his Jets beat his Patriots

11.10.11 at 11:00 am ET
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FOXBORO — Put this under the category something Bill Belichick would never do. .

Play a role in a movie that has him cheering for and being a fan of his hated arch-rival.

But Rex Ryan is certainly no Belichick. So when Adam Sandler approached the coach of the J-E-T-S to play a Boston sports fan and lawyer who cheers on – among other teams – the Patriots, he gave his classic: Heck, yeah. Why not?

Ryan filmed his role in “I Hate You, Dad” in Massachusetts this past summer. It’s expected to be released in 2012.

And with Armageddon II on the docket for Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, the first question asked of Ryan was about his new career as an actor.

“That is a very serious note,” Ryan said in a deadpan voice that showed he’d been working on his acting skills. “When you look at it, initially I went in there and only had one line but I dominated it so much that they gave me several lines. As far as you guys know, that’€™s what happened. Nah, there’€™s no telling how many lines they’€™re going to show or anything like that but it was a lot of fun. They did have a billboard up there in the Boston area and I thought that could be trouble. Hopefully they took it down shortly thereafter, but it really was a lot of fun.”

Was it tough to play a Pats fan?

“It was a stretch,” Ryan said, with those reporters on hand in the Patriots PR offices trying to fight back the laughter. “There’€™s no doubt it was a stretch. [Laughs] No, it was good though. They had Red Sox stuff in there. They had Patriots stuff all over the place. They even had some Bruins stuff in there. Quite honestly, I’€™m not a big fan of any of those teams. [Laughs] No, it was good though.”

Did you consult anyone to do research to get into that character?

“Well yeah, I did extensive research on it and all that,” Ryan said, again in deadpan. “No, I will say this: I studied my lines. I was just assuming that when you go and you do your lines and you’€™re out of there in like 30 minutes. Wow, was that wrong. They did take after take after take after take And I had rehearsed my lines and then when Adam Sandler would improvise, I’€™d be like, ‘€˜Wait, aren’€™t you supposed to say this?’€™ But, it was a lot of fun. I actually did prepare, now. Especially the day before, I was studying those lines. I never wanted to mess up.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adam Sandler, Bill Belichick, Denis Leary, I hate you dad

Kevin Faulk: ‘We have to keep our heads up’

11.09.11 at 3:06 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Eyebrows were raised last Sunday at Gillette when Kevin Faulk was a pregame scratch, just one week after making his return from right knee surgery that ended his 2010 season in – of all places – the Meadowlands.

Now, Faulk has a chance to return to the scene of the crime. Will he be ready to go?

“I’m ready to roll,” Faulk said Wednesday, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that his health is not the issues. “Whatever happens, happens.

“Let’s just go out there and play football, work on our mistakes and try to win a game on Sunday. That was Sunday. That was last week. We’re talking about a whole different week now. We’re focusing on the Jets and trying to get our team rolling again.”

Sunday gave him to watch the recent Patriots offensive struggles from a distance.

“I’ve seen us not producing,” he said. “I’ve seen us not putting up enough points to win the football game for our team. That’s what we haven’t been doing.”

Is there a reason why?

“If we found out the reason, we wouldn’t be talking about this right now. Going out to practice, working on new things and trying to get things done.”

Is it all about execution?

“You can say that but we have to play better, as a football team, as players.”

While a leader on the team, Faulk steered clear of any Albert Haynesworth reaction or analysis.

“That what coaches do,” Faulk said. “We play football. We don’t worry about none of that.”

He has been and is still working with Chad Ochocinco on the practice field.

“He’s working hard like every other guy on the football team,” he said. “You can see it. It’s showing. You just have to keep going. Everything we’re doing right now, like coach said, ‘we have to do it better.’ It doesn’t matter how good we thought it was, it’s got to be better, it has to be better.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Kevin Faulk, New England Patriots

Pressure Points: Which New England defenders have done the best job of getting after the quarterback through eight games?

11.09.11 at 9:05 am ET
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According to official NFL gamebooks, opposing quarterbacks have 324 dropbacks against the Patriots through eight games this season, and have been hit by New England defenders a total of 40 times, to go along with 15 sacks (25th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of who has been getting to the quarterback for the Patriots through eight games:

Quarterback hits:
Defensive end Andre Carter: Eight
Defensive end/linebacker Mark Anderson: Six
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork: Six
Linebacker Dane Fletcher: Four
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich: Four
Defensive lineman Myron Pryor: Three
Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth: Two
Defensive lineman Kyle Love: Two
Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis: One
Defensive lineman Gerard Warren: One
Safety Pat Chung: One
Linebacker Brandon Spikes: One
Cornerback Phillip Adams: One

Anderson: 4.5
Carter: 4.5
Ninkovich: 1.5
Wilfork: 1.5
Chung: One
Love: One
Pryor: 0.5
Mike Wright: 0.5

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher

WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 10

11.09.11 at 7:08 am ET
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A wild week in the NFL resulted in a shakeup in this week’s edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Packers have a stranglehold on the No. 1 spot, but many other teams went soaring up or skyrocketing down. The 49ers (2), Ravens (3), and Steelers (4) move around but all remain in the top five. Meanwhile, the Patriots (11) plummet to their lowest spot all year. Back-to-back losses and the league’s worst pass defense is the main reason for the big drop.

It was a good week for some of the NFC’s top teams. The Falcons (5), Saints (6), Giants (8), and Bears (10) all rise at least one spot and sit in an NFC-dominated top 10. The Ravens (3), Steelers (4), and Jets (9) are the only teams that represent the AFC in the top 10.

Week 9 resulted in the NFL having just one remaining winless team. The Dolphins (29) wrapped up their first win of the season against the Chiefs (19). The Colts remain in the gutter at No. 32 and are now the lone front-runners for Andrew Luck.

Week 10 promises to be an exciting one, with will several divisional showdowns scheduled.

AFC East: Pats at Jets, AFC West: Chargers at Raiders, AFC North: Steelers at Bengals

NFC South: Saints at Falcons, NFC North: Lions at Bears

1. (1) Packers (8-0) ‘€” Dating back to last season, the Packers have won 14 straight games (including postseason). With the Vikings and Bucs next, there’s a very good possibility the defending champs could be 10-0 heading into their Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions.

2. (3) 49ers (7-1) ‘€” Make that six straight wins for the biggest surprise team in the league. The 49ers are atop of the NFC West and have the division practically wrapped up. Frank Gore‘s second sprained ankle of the season is reason to worry in San Francisco. Gore’s play this year is a major reason why the 49ers are in first-place. Alex Smith is a much better QB when he can lean on Gore. 

3. (5) Ravens (6-2) ‘€” A season sweep of the Steelers is a true sign of a strong team. Joe Flacco has redeemed himself after his poor performance against the Jaguars. Flacco is starting to get into a rhythm and has thrown for 300 or more yards in three of his last four games.

4. (2) Steelers (6-3) ‘€” The pass rush looks to be back with James Harrison wreaking havoc in the backfield. However, the Steelers defense still allowed the Ravens to convert 14 third downs on Sunday night. One positive is that Pittsburgh played much better against Ray Rice this time around. Rice averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. In Week 1, Rice ran all over the Steelers D. It almost seems inevitable that the Ravens and Steelers will see each other again in January.

5. (6) Falcons (5-3) ‘€” The Falcons’ biggest game of the season will come this week against the Saints. The two teams will fight for first place in the NFC South. Atlanta has to be encouraged going into the game after winning three straight and having a healthy Julio Jones back in Matt Ryan‘s arsenal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: aaron rodgers, Albert Haynesworth, NFL Power Rankings, Tim Tebow

Analysis: A closer look at Patriots’ decision to release Albert Haynesworth

11.08.11 at 2:33 pm ET
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In New England, the Albert Haynesworth era began in July with the promise of new beginnings, but ended bitterly last Sunday, as the defensive tackle submitted a weak performance and was seen sniping on the sidelines with defensive line coach Pepper Johnson.

The 6-foot-6, 350-pound Haynesworth arrived in a deal with Washington on July 29 for a fifth-round pick in 2013. The Tennessee product, who had a checkered history both on and off the field, sounded excited for the fresh start that was afforded to him with the Patriots, and spoke optimistically about a new lease on his football life. He appeared to put his money where his mouth was, as he reworked his contract down from a seven-year, $100 million deal he signed with Washington prior to the 2009 season to a far more cap-friendly, incentive-based deal.

However, he struggled to stay on the field — Haynesworth sightings at training camp were few and far between. When he did play at the start of the year, he was disruptive, finishing the regular-season opener against the Dolphins with what would be a season-high 30 snaps and three quarterback pressures. In addition, he drew a pair of holding calls on Miami offensive lineman Richie Incognito.

It would be the unquestioned high point for him in a New England uniform. His snaps quickly tailed off, and he eventually sat for two games because of a back problem. From that point on, Haynesworth’€™s playing time declined significantly. And while there were occasional flashes of solid play — he talked on several occasions about still trying to ‘€œknock the rust off’€ — things bottomed out this past weekend against the Giants, where he was on the field for just nine of the Patriots’ 74 defensive snaps.

When he was on the field against New York, he clearly struggled — at one point, he was bowled over on a 10-yard touchdown run by Giants’€™ offensive lineman David Diehl, and on another play, he was rag-dolled by New York offensive lineman Chris Snee. He spent the majority of the second half on the sideline, at one point engaging in what appeared to be an animated discussion with Johnson.

‘€œWe had a lot of defensive linemen active, so they played in different rotations,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday when asked about Haynesworth’€™s playing time against the Giants. ‘€œVince [Wilfork] is a guy, obviously, that we don’€™t want off the field, but the rest of those guys, they can’€™t all play. One guy plays for a while, then somebody else plays, and we rotate them.’€

In the end, Haynesworth played 132 snaps in New England, and in games he was active, he was on the field for 31 percent of the snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, he got two hits and eight hurries on 83 total rushes with the Patriots.

Haynesworth made $32 million in his two seasons with Redskins, but his reworked deal had him taking home $1.5 million in base salary with Patriots. If he is claimed, the remaining $706,000 on his deal will be picked up by his new team (teams have until 4 p.m. on Wednesday to claim his contract). Otherwise, New England will be on the hook for the rest of the money this year.

Going forward, this will open up more playing time possibilities for second-year defensive tackle Kyle Love, who was ahead of Haynesworth on the depth chart at this point in the season, as well as third-year lineman Ron Brace. In addition, expect more overall responsibility to fall on the shoulders of veteran defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Wilfork, as the Patriots remain relatively deep at the position (barring injury) for the rest of the season.

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Chris Snee, David Diehl
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