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Adam Schefter on D&C: Pats’ dominance no guarantee of postseason success

12.17.10 at 9:48 am ET
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ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning and talked about the Patriots’ incredible success of late. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

“You can’t watch them and not be impressed,” he said, noting: “They’ve scored in their last five games 196 points, which is 32 more than the Panthers have scored in 13 games this season.”

However, Schefter cautioned not to get carried away. “The team looks incredible, but the one thing that I would say ‘€¦ is that these things go in cycles,” he said. “And just because in Weeks 12 and 13 you look dominant does not ensure postseason success. I was talking to a head coach yesterday and we were talking about the Patriots and their dominance. And he goes, ‘They’re not as good as people are making them out to be.’ I go, ‘No?’ And he goes, ‘Every team has flaws, and they show up at different times.’ The Patriots’ flaws have not shown up the last few weeks. They have not turned over the football in five weeks, which is an NFL record. At some point, the secondary is going to get beat, Brady’s going to get intercepted, there’s going to be a fumble from a running back. These things have not happened to them lately, and they will happen.”

Added Schefter: “All I’m saying is, because they’ve been so dominant the last two weeks, they’re not that good. Not that good. Not dominant.”

Schefter predicted the Bears would knock off the Patriots last Sunday in Chicago. After the Patriots rolled to a 36-7 victory, Schefter said he’s learned his lesson. “I may not pick against the Patriots from here through the Super Bowl,” he said. “So, there’s going to be one week ‘€” maybe, maybe ‘€” when I’m wrong. Otherwise, I’ll be right every single week with this team.”

Logan Mankins has been a boost to the Patriots offensive line since returning from his holdout midseason. Looking at what might happen in the offseason, Schefter said: “My guess is Mankins is back in New England. I think that the two sides sit down and get something worked out, because they love him as a player. And I think that these hard feelings fade over time. They’re not forgotten, but they fade a little bit to the point where you can justify the deal if someone’s going to pay you, ‘OK, I feel a lot better about things.’ ”

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Read More: adam schefter, Logan Mankins, Michael Vick, Nils Lofgren

Nuggetpalooza’s Patriots-Packers preview!

12.17.10 at 8:39 am ET
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Following the Patriots’ thrashing of the Bears in last Sunday’s snowstorm, the desperate Packers come calling for a big Sunday night game in Foxboro. As of this writing, the forecast calls for a 50/50 chance of snow and a game-time temperature in the upper 20s. Should be fun … especially if Green Bay quarterback (and Nuggetpalooza’s lone fantasy stud) Aaron Rodgers is able to play.

Note that I’ve included a lot of “last five weeks” stat splits, which coincides with the Patriots’ current hot streak since putting the loss to Cleveland behind them.

Enjoy your football weekend!

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* – New England’s 12 third-down conversions last Sunday was the most by the Patriots in a game since they began tracking the stat in 1991. Here’s how they broke down based on yards needed for the first down:

11+: 2-for-4
8-10: 3-for-3
3-7: 3-for-6
1-2: 4-for-4

Note this: In their previous six road games this season, the Pats had averaged just 3.8 third down conversions per game.

And this: The Patriots went 5-for-7 (71 percent) on third-and-8+, becoming just the second team since the start of 2009 to have at least six of those tries and convert at least 70 percent.

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* – Overall this season, New England’s defense has allowed  48.5 percent third down conversions, the worst mark in the league not only this season, but it would be the worst in the NFL since 2000:

48.5% – Patriots, 2010
47.4% – Chiefs, 2008
47.4% – Colts, 2008
47.4% – Raiders, 2004

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* – The Pats have allowed their opponents to convert 35 percent of third-and-10+ this season (14-of-40), not only is that the highest/worst such percentage in the NFL this season, but it would be the second worst since 2000:

38.8% – Lions, 2007 (19-of-49)
35.0% – Patriots, 2010 (14-of-40)
34.0% – Seahawks, 2000 (18-of-53)

Note this: The Patriots’ worst such mark since 2000 prior to this season was 26.7 percent in 2008. They were the league’s worst that year as well.

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* – The Patriots have now allowed fewer than 10 points in two consecutive games. The only longer streak in the NFL this season is three straight games, by the Packers.

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* – New England outgained Chicago by 290 yards on Sunday. It was the third biggest positive yardage difference on the road by the Pats since 1991:

+311 – at Buffalo in 2005
+303 – at Houston in 2003
+290 – at Chicago in 2010

The Patriots entered the game having been outgained by 53 yards over their last 21 games.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Nuggetpalooza, Patriots, Tom Brady

Aaron Rodgers sits out Thursday practice for Packers

12.16.10 at 4:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Packers had two key players ‘€” quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Frank Zombo ‘€” miss Thursday practice. Here’s the complete injury report:

Out
DE Cullen Jenkins (calf)

Did Not Participate
QB Aaron Rodgers (concussion)
LB Frank Zombo (knee)

Limited Participation
G Darryn Colledge (knee)
LB Clay Mattews (shin)
DE Ryan Pickett (ankle)
S Anthony Smith (ankle)
CB Charles Woodson (toe/ankle)

Full Participation
S Atari Bigby (hamstring)
T Chad Clifton (knees)
FB Korey Hall (knee)
CB Pat Lee (ankle)
G Josh Sitton (knee)

Read More: injury report, Packers,

Four defensive linemen miss practice for Patriots

12.16.10 at 4:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots had four defensive linemen ‘€” Ron Brace, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren and Mike Wright ‘€” all did not practice for the Patriots Thursday afternoon. Here’s the complete injury report from the Patriots:

Did Not Participate
DL Ron Brace (concussion)
NT Myron Pryor (back)
DL Gerard Warren (knee)
DL Mike Wright (concussion)

Limited Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot)
WR Deion Branch (knee)
CB Devin McCourty (rib)

Full Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (elbow)

Read More: injury report, Patriots,

Turnovers taste great this time of year to Vince Wilfork and the Pats’ D

12.16.10 at 2:38 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Forget the offensive comparisons to 2007. It’s the defense – and more specifically – the turnovers that are leading this Patriots team down a path that is looking more and more like a Texas trail with every game.

The Patriots lead the NFL in turnover ratio with a plus-18, led by an AFC-best 20 interceptions. The only team with more in the NFL is Philadelphia with a secondary that includes a cornerback by the name of Asante Samuel.

More to the point, the Patriots have had the ability to score off those turnovers, something Bill Belichick has preached to his team beginning with the Super Bowl run in 2001. Remember Super Bowl XXXVI? Ty Law picked off Kurt Warner and raced down the sideline with a momentum-turning pick-6 before halftime. Another unforgettable pick-6 was Tedy Bruschi‘s in the snow against Jay Fieldler and Miami in Dec. 2003 in a 12-0 Patriots win. That season also ended with a Lombardi trophy landing in Foxboro.

This year, Gary Guyton set the tone against Carson Palmer on Opening Day when he came off the edge and picked off the Bengals QB and ran it 59 yards back for six as the Patriots raced out to a 24-3 halftime lead. Those turnovers don’t happen by accident.

‘€œThat’€™s something we’€™re proud of,” defensive captain Vince Wilfork said. “We preach it every day in practice. Guys make plays all the time in practice and I’€™m telling you, it sounds like I’€™m saying this a lot, but I’€™m going to tell you that you can’€™t get enough practice. The more you do in practice, the more plays you make in practice, the more consistent you are in practice, you have a good chance of bringing that out on game day.

“And it’€™s been working for us. And I think that’€™s the best thing, because everybody is starting to see what we do in practice, we can carry that over into the games. And if we do carry it over into games, we’€™ll be OK. So we always talk about turnovers, getting ahead in the turnover game.’€

It was Guyton again last Sunday in the snow when he picked up a Johnny Knox fumble forced by Devin McCourty and returned it 35 yards for a TD. So the turnovers are tasty but taking them to the house are downright delicious.

‘€œThat’€™s even bigger,” Vince Wilfork said. “We’€™ll try to continue to do that, so ‘€¦ I love giving Tom Brady a short field to work with. The best quarterback in the game. Our job is to keep him in those situations. The more we do in practice and the more plays you make in practice, we just have to have confidence in the game that we’€™ll have the same success.’€

Ever since the Miami game on Oct. 4 at Dolphins Stadium, the Patriots have been a turnover machine. That night, during a 41-14 romp over the Dolphins, Rob Ninkovich had the first two interceptions of his career while safety Patrick Chung returned an interception 51 yards for a clinching touchdown late.

“In practice, we do certain drills to emphasize that stuff,” Ninkovich said. “That’s one of the things with our defense, we’ve had a lot of turnovers. Running to the ball has a lot to do with it and also having good awareness of where the ball is at all times.

“There’s always a high emphasis on it with every team because it’s such a big factor in the game. Turnovers, they’re a big deal.”

That night, the Patriots had four interceptions, the second of six games this season the defense has had multiple interceptions in a game. In fact the Patriots have had at least two picks in their last four games, contributing to a total of 12 turnovers forced over the span. The Patriots, meantime, have not committed a single turnover.

“As a defense you’re always looking to create turnovers,” said safety Jarrad Page, who is still waiting to collect his first. “We’re not doing anything special; we’re not going outside the defense when we’re supposed to be in a certain zone, running down there and trying to make plays. We’re just focused on when we get opportunities to intercept the ball, catch the ball, opportunities to strip the ball, strip the ball. Yeah, we’ve been very focused on things like that.

“But it seems like the reason why we’re getting all these [turnovers] we’re just being consistent and doing what we’re supposed to do, being where we’re supposed to be and the ball is coming to us.”

Read More: Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Devin McCourty, Gary Guyton

The Big Nickel: Thursday with Vince Wilfork, an injury update and meet the two new guys

12.16.10 at 1:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Thursday:

1. The highlight of most Thursdays is the appearance of defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, and he certainly didn’€™t disappoint this week.
In an almost 10-minute Q&A with reporters he discussed a wide variety of topics, including the importance of playing with consistency, forcing takeaways and the play of both Gerard Warren and Jerod Mayo. Here are a few highlights:

On playing with consistency: ‘€œWhen your number is called, you have to be ready to perform, and perform pretty well, so I think as a team, it’€™s not just certain positions. You just can’€™t say it’€™s just the defensive line or the offensive line. I think as a team, you have to be consistent, day in and day out, and most of the time, that starts in practice. I think any football team will tell you that preparation is the key to everything. If you don’€™t prepare well, you won’€™t have a chance on game day. So we’€™ve been through those days. We came through a practice in a week where we say, ‘€˜You know what? I hope we have it on Sunday.’€™ And it wasn’€™t the case. But we’€™re more consistent. We’€™re starting to get more consistent. Everybody is starting to rally around each other and trust one another out there on the field. So I’€™m happy with the way things are going, but we just have to keep striving forward and keep our head down and keep fighting. It’€™s the only thing we can do right now.’€

On the Patriots’€™ defense and its’€™ ability to force takeaways: ‘€œThat’€™s something we’€™re proud of. We preach it every day in practice. Guys make plays all the time in practice and I’€™m telling you, it sounds like I’€™m saying this a lot, but I’€™m going to tell you that you can’€™t get enough practice. The more you do in practice, the more plays you make in practice, the more consistent you are in practice, you have a good chance of bringing that out on game day. And it’€™s been working for us. And I think that’€™s the best thing, because everybody is starting to see what we do in practice, we can carry that over into the games. And if we do carry it over into games, we’€™ll be OK. So we always talk about turnovers, getting ahead in the turnover game.’€

And the ability to turn those into points: ‘€œThat’€™s even bigger. We’€™ll try to continue to do that, so … I love giving Tom Brady a short field to work with. The best quarterback in the game. Our job is to keep him in those situations. The more we do in practice and the more plays you make in practice, we just have to have confidence in the game that we’€™ll have the same success.’€

On his relationship with Warren: ‘€œHe’€™s a helluva player, a helluva person. Smart, intelligent when it comes to football ‘€” and off the field. But it’€™s easy when you can have a veteran, a 10-year vet come in and adjust to a new system and catch on. And he’€™s done that. Everything we’€™ve asked of him, he’€™s done it. He’€™s taught people, the rookies. Even me. We sat down and watch film all the time. It’€™s very special when you sit back and hear him talk about the game itself. He’€™s very, very smart, so I’€™m happy to have him on this side with me, and he makes my job a little easier at times and probably vice-versa. We’€™re in it together, and he’€™s a heckuva player and I’€™m happy he’€™s here. He’€™s been doing a good job for us every week. I’€™m pretty sure he’€™s excited to be here, excited to be a part of something, a winning organization and a great group of guys.’€

And on Jerod Mayo ‘€” who he said could play at the U ‘€” and his tackle totals: ‘€œI’€™ll tell you, he’€™s an every down player. He’€™s every bit of a linebacker you’€™d want from a defensive person to a football player. And to be a middle linebacker in this game, you have to be able to tackle well. I know he’€™s taking it a little personal if he misses a tackle or whatever. I don’€™t think he misses many. I’€™m not sure, you’€™d have to ask him. I don’€™t think I’€™ve seen him miss one. But don’€™t quote me on that one. But he’€™s a very good tackler. He works his tail off. We see that guy working, his backers see him working, [and it] makes it easier for us to go out there and work, especially when you have somebody that’€™s giving 100 percent every play and playing every snap, that’€™s tough. The guy’€™s on special teams. He’€™s put together very, very well and he’€™s meant a lot to this organization and this team, especially for me to be a defensive lineman. He actually means a lot for me. Even though I’€™m taking up blocks for him I’€™m happy to have a man like Jerod with me. He’€™s probably one of the top guys at the position right now.’€
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Read More: aaron rodgers, Bill Belichick, Brandon Deaderick, Chevis Jackson

Pats practice Thursday: Tom Brady and Devin McCourty return

12.16.10 at 1:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady and Devin McCourty returned to Patriots practice Thursday as the team practiced outside in slightly warmer conditions in preparation for Sunday night’s game against Green Bay.

Brady received another off day on Wednesday, as has been the case in practice the last several weeks while McCourty returned one day after missing practice with a rib injury, sustained in the win in Chicago on Sunday.

Four players – all along the defensive line – were still missing as Ron Brace, Mike Wright, Myron Pryor and Gerard Warren were not spotted during the open portion of practice. The team practiced in sweats and shells for the second straight day.

Wright is still dealing with the effects of a concussion while Pryor has a nagging back injury

Read More: Devin McCourty, Gerard Warren, Mike Wright, Myron Pryor
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