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Matthew Slater on the Jets: ‘We don’t have too many fond feelings towards them’

10.16.12 at 8:52 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Matthew Slater knows all about big-time rivalries. Before joining the Patriots in 2008 and jumping right into the Patriots-Jets bi-annual border war, he played at UCLA and waited all season to play the crosstown Trojans of USC.

This week – Jets week – has a similar feel to him.

“You almost get the feel you’re in college and you’re playing your rival school,” Slater said. “So, I feel like I’m playing USC for me, personally. But the rivalry here, it doesn’t really matter what the records are. It just so happens were both 3-3 at this point. They want to beat us and we want to beat them. We don’t have too many fond feelings towards them and the same goes for them. They’re not too crazy about us either.

“I think in the spirit of the game it’s good to have rivalries like this, and for the popularity of the game to see two good teams get after it. I’m sure it’ll be no different this week.”

Slater realizes what’s on the line this week as the Patriots and Jets try to break free from a four-team 3-3 deadlock in the AFC East.

“Last I checked, we’re deadlocked at 3-3,” Slater said. “It just goes to show you that teams are vastly improved in our division and well-coached and there are good players out there. This is the National Football League, it’s very competitive league and right now, I think it’s safe to say we’re in the most competitive division. Hey, nothing is going to be given to us. We’re going to have to earn it from here on out.”

Slater injured his right leg covering a punt with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter. He got up and celebrated the big hit on Leon Washington (former Jet of course) that pinned the Seahawks at their own 10.

He slapped his helmet and popped up and down before suddenly limping, favoring his right leg.

“Things happen in football. Injuries occur,” Slater said Tuesday in front of his locker. “My focus is trying to get on the field and preparing this week and trying to help us beat the Jets.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Leon Washington, Matthew Slater, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2012 season

10.16.12 at 8:41 pm ET
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Through six weeks, the Patriots have been flagged for 34 penalties (24th in the league) for a total of 312 yards (20th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
TE Rob Gronkowski: four penalties (two offensive holding, false start, offensive pass interference), 35 yards
CB Devin McCourty: three penalties (defensive holding, two defensive pass interference), 51 yards
Team: three penalties (illegal formation, illegal shift, illegal block above the waist), 20 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: two penalties (defensive holding, unnecessary roughness), 20 yards
WR Julian Edelman: two penalties (false start, offensive pass interference), 15 yards
ST Niko Koutouvides: two penalties (defensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 14 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: two penalties (encroachment, defensive offsides), 10 yards
LB Jerod Mayo: two penalties (defensive pass interference) 8 yards
S Pat Chung: one penalty (defensive pass interference), 40 yards
S Steve Gregory: one penalty (personal foul), 15 yards
C Ryan Wendell: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
S Tavon Wilson: one penalty (offensive holding’€“punt return team), 10 yards
ST Nate Ebner: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
QB Tom Brady: one penalty (intentional grounding), 10 yards
CB Ras-I Dowling: one penalty (defensive pass interference) 9 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: one penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
DE Chandler Jones: one penalty (defensive offsides) 5 yards
LS Danny Aiken: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
OL Donald Thomas: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
G Logan Mankins: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
OT Nate Solder: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
OT Sebastian Vollmer: one penalty (false start), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Cornerback: Five penalties for 65 yards
Specialists (punter, kicker, long snapper, kick/punt units): Five penalties for 39 yards
Offensive line: Five penalties for 30 yards
Tight end: Four penalties for 35 yards
Linebacker: Four penalties for 28 yards
Team: Three penalties for 20 yards
Defensive line: Three penalties for 15 yards
Wide receiver: Two penalties for 15 yards
Safety: Two penalties for 55 yards
Quarterback: One penalty for 10

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
False start: Seven
Defensive pass interference: Six
Offensive holding: Five
Defensive holding: Three
Defensive offsides: Three
Illegal block above the waist: Two
Offensive pass interference: Two
Unnecessary roughness: One
Intentional grounding: One
Illegal formation: One
Personal foul: One
Encroachment: One
Illegal shift: One

Notes: Brady was twice called for intentional grounding on Sunday against the Seahawks, but the call at the end of the first half was declined. ‘€¦ The 40-yard pass interference call that went against Chung Sunday was the costliest of the season in terms of total yardage. ‘€¦ By way of comparison, through six games last year, the Patriots were called for 39 penalties and 353 yards. This year, they’€™re down in both departments ‘€“ they have five fewer penalties and 41 fewer penalty yards. ‘€¦ Kudos to the offensive line: Through six games last season, they led the team in total penalty per position with 11. This season, through six games, they have less than half that many. In that same vein, the Patriots had 12 offensive holding calls through six games last year. This season, they have five through six games. ‘€¦ As a ream, New England is averaging 5.7 penalties a game and 52 penalty yards. ‘€¦ When it comes to the AFC East, the Patriots are tied with the Bills for second-fewest penalties with 34. (The Dolphins have 32, while the Jets have 38.) In addition, New England is third in the division in penalty yardage with 312. The Bills are best in the AFC East with 245 penalty yards, while the Dolphins are second at 254 yards. The Jets are fourth with 370 penalty yards.

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Alfonzo Dennard: ‘Sometimes the quarterback lulls us to sleep’

10.16.12 at 5:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In the wake of Sunday’s meltdown in the secondary, the search for answers and corrections began in earnest Tuesday as Patriots players reported back to work after an off day on Monday.

The biggest question remains in the secondary, where rookies and veterans alike look to rebound and avoid getting burned by the deep ball, like the 46-yard post pattern to Sidney Rice with less than 90 seconds remaining that lifted Seattle to a 24-23 win.

“Honestly, I’m not sure,” cornerback Alfonzo Dennard said Tuesday when asked how quarterbacks like Russell Wilson can be so effective with the deep ball. “I kind of say sometimes the quarterback lulls us to sleep. They do a lot of running and then all of sudden they hit with a play-action and a big play. You have to stay focused out there.”

Dennard came in and played significant snaps for the demoted Kyle Arrington, who was benched for significant portions of the game. Dennard remained on the field playing right corner on the decisive play while Arrington came off the field, replaced by safety Nate Ebner, as the Patriots switched to a base defense.

The rookie out of Nebraska said there’s no lack of confidence in himself or his teammates.

“No, no loss at all,” Dennard said. “We’re beating ourselves out there so we just have to make more plays.

“Whatever happened back in the past is in the past so, we have to move forward. We have to make more plays on the ball. They made more plays than we did so we have to make more plays on the ball.”

Dennard said the message from the coaches in Tuesday’s meeting was pretty clear.

“That’s how it goes,” he said. “You have to always have that mindset that you can make plays. If you don’t make plays, you don’t perform well. I say we have to stay focused, stay focused on what we have to do out there. We have to play as a team and everybody has to be on the same page.”

“It is tough. Just playing cornerback is tough, anyways. There’s a lot of stuff you have to do. You have to mirror the receiver’s move, every move he makes. There’s a lot of work you have to do as a cornerback.”

Dennard said he is still learning his responsibilities as a rookie in Bill Belichick‘s system and defensive scheme.

“It’s very tough just because you have to stay focused on what you have to do on the field,” Dennard said. “I’m not going to say you have to be focused on [only] one thing. You have to be focused on a lot of things. You have to have your technique on point, mirror the receiver and just know what the receiver is going to do before you go out there.

“I know I messed up a lot on my technique. After watching film, I have a lot of stuff I have to work on.”

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl

Steve Gregory still ‘day-to-day’ as he continues to work back from hip injury

10.16.12 at 5:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots safety Steve Gregory, who has missed the last two weeks because of a hip injury, said Tuesday afternoon he’€™s still ‘€œday-to-day.’€

‘€œ[Just] doing what the trainers ask me to do and trying to get better. That’€™s pretty much it,’€ said the 29-year-old safety, in his first season with the Patriots. ‘€œYou never want to be hurt and not playing — as a competitor, you always want to be in there helping your team. The only think I can focus in on right now is getting healthy. That’€™s what I’€™ve been doing, just doing what the training staff asks me to do. I’€™m working every day to get better.’€

Asked if he was ‘€œhopeful’€ he could return this week, Gregory shrugged.

‘€œDon’€™t know. Like I said, I’€™m just going day-to-day, trying to get healthy. We’€™ll take it from there,’€ said the Syracuse product, who had 14 tackles and one interception this season. ‘€œI can’€™t wait to play. But like I said, it’€™s something you can’€™t rush back from because you’€™ll give yourself a setback. I want to make sure I’€™m 100 percent before I return.’€

While he’€™s been sidelined, Gregory said he’€™s been working with his fellow defensive backs.

‘€œI’€™m in there in meetings and stuff, talking to the guys. We’€™re constantly breaking down film and trying to get better. I’€™m always trying to help the guys out,’€ Gregory said. ‘€œWe just have to play better. We have to make more plays. Obviously, it’€™s a team game. We just have to play better all-around football.’€

The Patriots secondary struggled in Sunday’€™s loss to the Seahawks, as rookie quarterback Russell Wilson — who was at the controls of the second-worst passing offense in the league entering the game against New England — threw for 293 yards in a 24-23 upset of the Patriots.

At the end of the game, with no Gregory or Pat Chung in the game, Wilson went deep down the middle of the field on a long pass for wide receiver Sidney Rice, who had managed to slip behind New England rookie safeties Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner for what would turn out to the game-winning touchdown.

Gregory was asked about the play of the rookie safeties to this point in the season.

‘€œThey’€™ve been working hard. Those guys work hard every day, trying to get better, trying to understand the game more and more each time they’€™re in there,’€ he said. ‘€œObviously, early in your career, everything is a learning experience. And they’€™re getting plenty of learning experiences now. But they’€™re working really hard at trying to become better football players.’€

Gregory and the rest of the defensive backs are now on to the Jets, who will visit Foxboro Sunday for what has suddenly turned into a key divisional matchup.

‘€œIt’€™s going to be a big week — a division game, a conference game. It’€™s definitely a big game on our schedule, and we have to be ready to go,’€ Gregory said. ‘€œ[We] just [have] to get back to the grindstone. Correct the things that we’€™re not doing so well and try to get better from it. And go get a win. That’€™s the most important thing. At the end of the day, it’€™s wins and losses. We need to do things better to win football games, and that’€™s what we’€™re going to do.’€

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Bill Belichick: Tim Tebow brings value, versatility to Jets

10.16.12 at 1:18 pm ET
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On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick singled out Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow for not only his offensive versatility, but also his special teams value.

‘€œThey’€™ve pretty much used him at every spot,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œHe’€™s played more quarterback than anything else. He’€™s also played running back, he’€™s played what I would say is tight end, [and] he’€™s also played a little bit of receiver. They’€™ve put him in some different spots. When he’€™s the quarterback, he’€™s the quarterback: he can run, he can throw, he can run the option, he can run their regular offense or they can run Tebow-type plays there that Denver ran last year or that [offensive coordinator Tony] Sparano ran when he was at Miami. He gives them a lot of versatility on all those things.

‘€œHe doesn’€™t always line up at quarterback when he’€™s in there on offense, so you have to be ready to deal with him in other positions as well. He’€™s a good runner, strong runner, very strong, good thrower, mobile in the pocket, smart player, can do a lot of different things, has different option plays and things like that. You certainly have to be aware when he’€™s in there.’€

Then, there’€™s his work on special teams — he gives the Jets a different look on the punt team because he works as the punt protector, and his offensive skill set makes a fake punt an option at all times.

‘€œYou have to be alert for them to snap the ball to the personal protector,’€ said Belichick, who called Tebow ‘€œdangerous’€ in that role. ‘€œWhether he runs up the middle or goes in a sweep or however they do it, those are things you have to prepare for every week with your punt return unit.

‘€œAgain, the fact that it’€™s him and he’€™s a big strong guy that’€™s a good runner and can throw the ball, he can do a little bit more than a lot of guys that are back there. But at the same time, those are the kind of things you have to defend every week. So, whoever’€™s responsibility it is to cover the guy has to cover him. If they run it, we have to have our gaps controlled.’€

Belichick, who was connected to Tebow several times throughout the predraft process, said there’€™s question that the former Florida quarterback is a valuable part of the Jets.

‘€œYeah, absolutely. There’€™s no question about it,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œWe saw him play last year. He quarterbacked that team to the playoffs in Denver and in addition to some of the quarterbacking things, he’€™s done a lot of other things for the Jets. Yeah, of course he’€™s a valuable guy. There’€™s no doubt about that.’€

Here are a few other highlights from Belichick’€™s Tuesday Q&A with the media:
Read the rest of this entry »

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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

10.16.12 at 12:08 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. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game through the first five weeks of the 2012 regular season:

WR Wes Welker: 48 catches on 66 targets
WR Brandon Lloyd: 34 catches on 57 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 29 catches on 42 targets
TE Aaron Hernandez: 12 catches on 17 targets
RB Danny Woodhead: 10 catches on 11 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 10 catches on 15 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: Six catches on 10 targets
WR Deion Branch: Four catches on nine targets
RB Brandon Bolden: Two catches on two targets
TE Daniel Fells: Two catches on six targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: One catch on one target
RB Shane Vereen: One catch on two targets
TE Kellen Winslow: One catch on two targets
TOTALS: 160 catches on 240 targets

By position
Wide receiver: 96 catches on 147 targets
Tight end: 45 catches on 68 targets
Running back: 19 catches on 25 targets

By way of comparison, here’€™s a look at how the targets broke down through six weeks last season.

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Pressure points: Which Pats defenders have done best job getting after QB in 2012?

10.16.12 at 11:42 am ET
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Through six weeks, the Patriots have 23 quarterback hits and 10 sacks as a team. Based on gamebooks, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2012 season:

Quarterback hits
DE Chandler Jones: Eight
DE Jermaine Cunningham: Three
DE Rob Ninkovich: Three
LB Brandon Spikes: Three
DL Vince Wilfork: Two
DE Trevor Scott: One
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: One
LB Jerod Mayo: One
DL Brandon Deaderick: One

Jones: Five (21 yards)
Ninkovich: Two (Six yards)
Cunningham: One (seven yards)
Hightower: One (zero yards)
Mayo: One (seven yards)

By way of comparison, through six games last year the Patriots had 27 hits and 10 sacks.

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