|11.21.11 at 7:23 pm ET|
|11.21.11 at 7:20 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots announced that the following players were inactive for Monday’s game against the Chiefs: quarterback Ryan Mallett, safety Patrick Chung, cornerback Devin McCourty, running back Kevin Faulk and linebackers Dane Fletcher, Jeff Tarpinian and Brandon Spikes.
The biggest names missing are Chung and McCourty, which will leave the Patriots thin in the secondary. This is the second consecutive week that Chung (foot) will sit out, while McCourty suffered a shoulder injury when he collided with teammate Sterling Moore in the first half of last week’s game against the Jets and did not return. Expect more snaps for Moore and James Ihedigbo at safety. (The Patriots do have some depth at the safety spot with Sergio Brown and Ross Ventrone, the latter of whom was re-signed to New England’s active roster earlier on Monday.)
The Patriots will also be without three linebackers in Fletcher, Spikes and Tarpinian. Fletcher (thumb) and Spikes (knee) have already been out for an extended stretch, while Tarpinian (illness) has struggled over the last week to stay on the field. Gary Guyton was banged up last week with a shoulder problem, but should get more work this week because of the injury situation.
Two names on the offensive side of the ball who could get more reps because they’re active are wide receiver Taylor Price and running back Shane Vereen. Both have been used sparingly this season, as Price has struggled to see the field because of a hamstring problem while the rookie Vereen has been squeezed out because of a numbers game. (With Faulk on the sidelines Monday night, it likely gave Vereen the opportunity to at least dress for the game.)
|11.21.11 at 12:23 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Clear skies and temperatures in the low-to-mid 30s are expected for kickoff tonight (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) as the Patriots look to take a stranglehold on the AFC East against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tonight will be the chilliest game of the season to date, falling below the 40 degrees in Pittsburgh on Oct. 30, and the previous coldest Gillette game of the season, a not-so-frosty 54 on Nov. 6 for the Pats-Giants.
The last time these two teams met on Monday night was back in 2004. While most of New England was still reveling in the end of a certain 86-year-old curse three weeks earlier, the Patriots went into Kansas City and won for the first time ever at Arrowhead and for the first time in Kansas City since 1964 by virtue of a 27-19 win. Corey Dillon had a pair of TD runs in the win.
And obviously, no one forgets the last time the two teams met overall. It was Opening Day 2008 and the only game Tom Brady would play in that season. He dropped back to pass near midfield in the first quarter when safety Bernard Pollard rolled into his left knee, tearing up his ACL and requiring reconstructive surgery.
Matt Cassel came on to lead the Patriots to a 17-10 win and 11 wins in the ’08 season before falling just short of the playoffs.
The Patriots enter the game with a 6-3 mark and can take a two-game lead over the Bills and Jets for the division lead, with the Jets and Bills both losing earlier in the Week 11. The 4-5 Chiefs have been the definition of an up-and-down team this season. After losing their first three games, they rebounded to win their next four and apparently seemed destined for a title defense in the AFC West.
But what seemed a easy two-game homestand against the Dolphins and Broncos turned into a nightmare as they lost 31-3 to the previously winless Fish and 17-10 to the Broncos. They need tonight’s game desperately, just to remain one game behind the 6-4 Raiders in the AFC West.
Adding injury to insult, they lost Cassel indefinitely to a hand injury that required surgery last week. As a result, UFL castoff Tyler Palko – a lefty out of the University of Pittsburgh – gets his first NFL start.
There’s little doubt the Chiefs will try to establish the run more than any team the Patriots have faced this season. They enter the game fifth in the AFC in rushing at a clip of 124.4 yards per game. The quartet of Thomas Jones, Le’Ron McClain, Dexter McCluster and Jackie Battle will rotate their touches and attempt to take the load off Palko. Check out Chris Price’s “10 Matchups” for more insight to the contest.
The Patriots have already ruled out linebackers Dane Fletcher (thumb) and Brandon Spikes (knee) while Devin McCourty (shoulder) is doubtful. The Patriots listed 13 others as questionable for the game.
Other things to watch tonight:
Brady enters the game with 3,032 passing yards and needs just 295 more to set a new NFL record for most passing yards in the first 10 games of a season. Drew Brees has the top two marks of all time with 3,326 this season and 3,251 in 2008.
Brady looks to get back on the winning track at Gillette after losing a regular season home game for the first time since 2006 in his last outing, a 24-20 defeat to the Giants.
|11.21.11 at 11:08 am ET|
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s excitement quickly turned to dismay following a third-quarter touchdown in last week’s 37-16 win over the Jets. Gronkowski spiked the ball in front of a Jets defender after a 5-yard touchdown reception gave the Patriots a 23-9 lead and was immediately penalized by the referees for his celebration. On Friday, the NFL announced it would fine Gronkowski $7,500 for the celebration.
The wallet hit sparked a reaction from more than just Gronkowski himself. On Saturday, the AHL’s Worcester Sharks announced they would reimburse Gronkowski for the fine if he agreed to participate in a ceremonial “puck spike” before the Sharks’ Feb. 24 game against the Providence Bruins at the DCU Center in Worcester.
“The Sharks would be more than happy to reimburse Gronkowski to spike the puck before a Worcester Sharks game,” Sharks president Michael A. Mudd said in a statement. ‘Sharks fans are Patriots fans and I know that they would enjoy watching Gronkowski show us how to properly spike a puck at center ice and sign some autographs. I hope Rob takes us up on the offer.”
The Sharks consider the P-Bruins their biggest rivals and said having Gronkowski at that game would be fitting considering his spike came in a game against the rival Jets. It is not just Worcester fans who might appreciate having a Patriots player at the game. The Sharks roster boasts four New England natives, all of whom are from Massachusetts: Ben Ferriero, John McCarthy, Brian O’Hanley and Sean Sullivan.
|11.21.11 at 9:30 am ET|
Tonight the Patriots, who over the last eight days have made great strides toward winning the AFC East, face the struggling Chiefs, who won’t have the services of their starting quarterback, Matt Cassel. Here are some numbers to get you ready:
* – Do you realize that this is the first team that the Patriots have played this season against a team with more losses than wins? That’s right, they’ve played three teams that were at .500: The Jets in Week 5 and Dallas in Week 6 were 2-2, and Miami was technically at .500 in the season opener. All the others were over .500 when they faced the Pats: San Diego (1-0), Buffalo (2-0), Oakland (2-1), Pittsburgh (5-2), New York Giants (5-2), and the Jets (5-3).
Note this: The 9-game streak without playing a team with a losing record is the longest by a Patriots team in a single season and the longest in the NFL since, well, last season, when the Browns didn’t play a team with a losing record until Week 12.
* – The last time that the Patriots lost at home to a team with a losing record in Week 5 or after was way back in Week 10, 1999, when they lost to a 2-6 Jets team, 24-17. They’ve won 25 such games in a row since then.
* – The Chiefs have pitched second half shutouts in each of their last two road games. It’s the first time they’ve done it in consecutive road tilts since they allowed no points in three straight second halfs on the road in 1997.
* – The Patriots’ defense has allowed their opponents’ to gain a first down (i.e.a gain of 10+ yards) on 26% of opponents’ first down plays, on pace to be the highest/worst percentage since at least 2000:
25.7% – Patriots, 2011
22.6% – Rams, 2003
22.5% – Lions, 2008
Only one Patriots defense has ended a season above 20% (2001).
* – Over the season’s first six weeks, the Patriots converted 13-of-32 (league high 40.6%) in 3rd-and-6+ situations. Since then, they’ve gone just 3-of-23 (13%), the third worst mark in the NFL in that span. Only Detroit (7.7%; 2-of-26) and Denver (11.8%; 4-of-34) have been worse.
* – The Patriots have not thrown a pick on their opening possession of a game since 2009. The Chiefs have picked off their opponents on their opening possesion a league leading three times this season. Kansas City’s defense only had three such picks over the previous six seasons combined.
——————————————————————————————————— Read the rest of this entry »
|11.21.11 at 12:42 am ET|
Five things for Patriots fans to take away from an entertaining day of football:
1. It’s officially time to write off the Bills. The wheels have come off the Buffalo bandwagon completely, so much so that Miami, which is now at 3-7, could ultimately end up winning more games than the 5-5 Bills. Buffalo, which started the season promisingly and was in first place three weeks ago with a 5-2 record, has now lost its last three games and has been outscored 106-26 while doing so. In addition, the Bills continue to lose players at an alarming rate. On Sunday they lost wide receiver Donald Jones and Terrence McGee to serious leg injuries, and running back Fred Jackson left in the second half with a leg injury. This comes on the heels of recent season-ending injuries to starting center Eric Wood (knee), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (foot) and linebacker Shawne Merriman (Achilles tendon).
2. Should they get themselves a bye and avoid the mess of the opening weekend of the postseason, they Patriots should consider themselves lucky they won’t have to chance it against a team like the Bengals, or perhaps the Ravens. Those two teams went hard at each other on Sunday, and even though legendary Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis missed his first game since 2007 with a toe injury, the Ravens managed to hold off the Bengals, 31-24. The win could end up sending three AFC North teams to the postseason — Baltimore and Pittsburgh are tied for the top spot at 7-3, while Cincinnati is a game off the pace. Even though the Ravens have been maddening at times this year — they’ve lost to Tennessee, Jacksonville and Seattle but also beaten Pittsburgh and Houston — their veteran savvy and solid running game make them a threat.
Read the rest of this entry »
|11.19.11 at 9:21 pm ET|
Every week over the course of the 2011 NFL season, we’ll present a list of the Patriots’ ‘offensive touches,’ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Nine games into the season, here’s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2011:
BenJarvus Green Ellis: 121 (116 carries, 5 receptions) five touchdowns ‘ nine negative plays
Wes Welker: 74 (2 carries, 72 receptions) six touchdowns ‘ one negative play
Danny Woodhead: 56 (44 carries, 12 receptions) zero touchdowns ‘ two negative plays
Rob Gronkowski: 52 (0 carries, 52 receptions), eight touchdowns
Stevan Ridley: 39 (36 carries, 3 reception), one touchdown ‘ three negative plays
Aaron Hernandez: 38 (1 carry, 37 receptions), five touchdowns
Deion Branch: 37 (0 carries, 37 receptions), four touchdowns
Kevin Faulk: 16 (11 carries, 5 receptions) zero touchdowns ‘ two negative plays
Tom Brady: 14 (14 carries, 0 receptions) 23 passing touchdowns, zero rushing touchdowns ‘ 16 negative plays (all sacks)
Chad Ochocinco: 11 (0 carries, 11 receptions), zero touchdowns
Julian Edelman: 6 (3 carries, 3 receptions) zero touchdowns ‘ two negative plays, both runs
Matthew Slater: 1 (0 carries, 1 reception) zero touchdowns
TOTAL: 465 touches (227 carries, 238 receptions) ‘ 35 negative plays (excluding kneeldowns).