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On 25th anniversary of Patriots’ first Super Bowl, disappointment still lingers, but so does unity

01.26.11 at 9:41 am ET
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As pays tribute to the Patriots’ 1986 Super Bowl team, we remember what a tremendous year 1986 was in Boston sports. Check out our LEEInks list of the most memorable moments from that year.

Twenty-five years ago Wednesday, the Patriots made their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. The game against the Bears at the Louisiana Superdome got off to a promising start for New England when linebacker Larry McGrew recovered a Walter Payton fumble just two plays in to set up a Tony Franklin 36-year field goal that gave the Pats a 3-0 lead.

But things quickly went downhill from there. On their final six drives of the first half, the Pats turned the ball over twice and had to punt four times, including three three-and-outs. They finished the half with minus-19 total offensive yards, two pass completions and one first down.

Meanwhile, the Bears, who were set up with great field position throughout the half, scored 23 straight points to take a commanding 23-3 lead into halftime.

‘€œOnce the snowball started rolling downhill, we just couldn’€™t stop it,’€ Pro Bowl wide receiver Irving Fryar recalled Tuesday. ‘€œThey were too good of a team to make mistakes against. Once we started making mistakes and they started capitalizing on the mistakes and got a lead, there was no way we were going to stop the train from running.’€

The Pats never threatened a comeback in the second half and ultimately lost the game 46-10, making it the most lopsided Super Bowl in history at the time. They set Super Bowl records for most sacks allowed (7 ‘€” of both starter Tony Eason and Steve Grogan) and fewest rushing yards gained (7), and their 123 total yards were the second-lowest total in Super Bowl history.

Today, the loss still stings for the players on that team.

‘€œIt was sad,’€ said Hall of Fame offensive guard John Hannah, who played his final game in that Super Bowl. ‘€œIt was a really long day and it was very embarrassing. ‘€¦ Just the frustration of getting there and performing so, so poorly, it just really hurt.’€

But the 1985 squad still has a special place in Patriots history. It was the first team in franchise history to reach the Super Bowl and it posted the best regular-season record (11-5) since 1978.

‘€œThat experience to be able to get to the Super Bowl was great, being the first team in the history of the Patriots to make it there,’€ said safety Fred Marion, who was also a Pro Bowler that year. ‘€œNo one expected us to be there but ourselves.’€

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Read More: 1986 Super Bowl, Fred Marion, Irving Fryar, John Hannah

Patriots by position: Defensive line

01.26.11 at 12:38 am ET
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Over the next week as the Patriots offseason gets underway, we’€™ll present a snapshot of the team by position. We’€™ve already examined the defensive backs and the linebackers. Here’€™s a look at the defensive line:

On the roster: Landon Cohen, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Eric Moore, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork. (Ron Brace, Darryl Richard, Ty Warren, Kade Weston and Mike Wright ended the season on injured reserve, while Marlon Favorite is on the practice squad.)

Stat standouts: Leading tackler (according to coaches film review): Wilfork, 87; Gerard Warren, 36. Sacks: Wright, 5.5; Gerard Warren, 3.5. Best single game: Against Indianapolis, Wilfork ‘€” going almost wire-to-wire because of injuries to some of his teammates ‘€” the Pro Bowler was immense. He had six tackles, including four stops (according to Pro Football Focus, it’€™s a solo tackle that constitutes an offensive failure). Wright also gets points for his effort against the Steelers, a game where he had two sacks of Ben Roethlisberger and five quarterback pressures.

2010, in three sentences: More than any other position, this one was hit hardest by injury, as Brace, Warren and Wright were all key losses. Of those who remained, there was consistently great play up front from Wilfork, while Gerard Warren exceeded all expectations and (when healthy) Wright also played very well. However, past that, it was a mixed bag, with some youngsters playing well when given the chance (like Brace), but others weren’€™t able to rise to the occasion when called upon.
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Read More: Brandon Deaderick, Darryl Richard, defensive line, Eric Moore

Chad Ochocinco changing his name back to Chad Johnson

01.25.11 at 8:07 pm ET
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Chad Ochocinco said Tuesday that he’s changing his name back to Chad Johnson. Appearing on ESPN’s “NFL Live,” the receiver said the name change was fun, but it’s time to switch back to his original moniker. “I don’t have a choice right now,” Ochocinco said. “I’ve done enough with the Ocho thing.” The receiver initially changed his name from Johnson to Ochocinco before the 2008 season in order to wear his nickname on his jersey.

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Patriots by position: Linebackers

01.25.11 at 7:40 pm ET
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Over the next week, as the Patriots’ offseason gets underway, we’€™ll present a snapshot of the team by position. We’€™ve already examined the defensive backs ‘€” now, we focus on the linebackers:

On the roster: Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham, Dane Fletcher, Gary Guyton, Jerod Mayo, Marques Murrell, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Tracy White.

Stat standouts: Leading tackler (according to coaches film review): Mayo, 193; Spikes, 71. Sacks: Banta-Cain, 5; Ninkovich, 4. Interceptions: Ninkovich, 2; Guyton, 2. Best single game: There were a few quality performances from other players (Ninkovich’€™s two-interception game against the Dolphins comes to mind), but this was Mayo’€™s category by a long shot. The third-year inside linebacker out of Tennessee had a couple of really impressive outings to choose from. Our favorite was the 19-tackle game he had against the Ravens on Oct. 17 ‘€” against a team known for world-class linebackers, Mayo was the best one on the field that afternoon.

2010, in three sentences: About what was expected. You had a Pro Bowl year from Mayo, some guys like Ninkovich, Fletcher and Guyton who exceeded expectations, while rookies Cunningham and Spikes got quality snaps in their first year in the system. It was a bit of a disappointment for Banta-Cain, who was New England’€™s best pass rusher in 2009 but slipped to just five sacks in 2010.

By the numbers ‘€” tie (courtesy of Nuggetpalooza): 2.10. Among linebackers with at least 80 tackle opportunities in 2010, Mayo’€™s 2.10 miss percentage ‘€” that is, where he had a ballcarrier lined up and he whiffed on the tackle attempt ‘€” was second best in the league. (Takeo Spikes of San Francisco was first with a 1.92 percentage, while Buffalo’€™s Paul Posluszny was third at 2.94 percent.) 296: According to Pro Football Focus, Patriots linebackers made 296 tackles in 2010, second in the league to the 49ers (320). What’€™s more, they missed only 23 tackles or 5.82 percent of their opportunities, the third-lowest miss percentage in the league. (The Giants were first at 5.33 percent, the Cowboys were second at 5.73 percent, the Bills third at 5.81 percent and the Patriots fourth.)

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Gary Guyton

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Pittsburgh DE Greg Romeus

01.25.11 at 3:24 pm ET
By   |   Comments will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.


Position: Defensive End

School: Pittsburgh

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 270 pounds

Achievements: Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year (2009), First Team All-Big East (2009), second-team All-American (2009), Sporting News second-team All-American (2009), Rivals third-team All-American (2009), second-team All-Big East (2008), Football Writers,, Sporting News, Rivals and Scout Freshman All-American (2007).

What he brings: Romeus might be one of the more athletic defensive ends in this draft class, but whether he is big and strong enough to play the five-technique remains to be seen. He had eight sacks in his junior year before his senior campaign was derailed by injury.

Where the Patriots could get him: Second or third round

Notes: Romeus was limited to just two games in his senior season at Pittsburgh due to a back injury. That of course is a huge red flag, but given the Patriots’€™ willingness to spend a high second-round pick on a guy coming off back surgery last year in Rob Gronkowski, they could still have interest if they deem him a fit. He will need to weigh in heavier at the combine or put on some serious weight if he wants to be considered a lineman by 3-4 teams.

His ability to stay focused for an entire game has been called into question. That was a red flag for Carlos Dunlap a year ago and the Bengals ended up getting a real steal in the second round. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Greg Romeus, Potential Patriots,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward

01.25.11 at 9:57 am ET
By   |   Comments will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.


Postion: Defensive end

School: Ohio State

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 288 pounds

Achievements: All-Big Ten (2010), All-Big Ten second team (2009), Ohio State’s Jack Stephenson Award as outstanding Buckeyes defensive lineman (2009), Freshman All-American (Sporting News, Rivals, Scout)

What he brings: A hard worker who doesn’t give up on the play, Heyward uses his quickness and strength well and has the versatility to play everywhere on the line except nose tackle and provide underneath coverage in the passing game.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 28 or 33.

Notes: Heyward’s father is the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, who spent 11 seasons as a running back in the NFL with five teams. His stepfather is Cory Blackwell, who spent one season in the NBA. The Buckeyes standout is durable, playing in every game during his four seasons in Columbus, although he had surgery on his elbow  a couple of weeks after hyperextending it in the Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas Jan. 4 (with a 10-to-12-week timetable for recovery). He was an All-Big Ten selection in 2010 after recording 48 tackles, 13 for loss and 3.5 sacks. That followed a standout junior season in 2009 (46 tackles, 10 for loss, 6.5 sacks).

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Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Cameron Heyward, Potential Patriots,

Patriots by Position: Defensive backs

01.24.11 at 9:54 pm ET
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Over the next week as the Patriots offseason gets underway, we’€™ll present a snapshot of the team by position. Today, the defensive backs are in the spotlight:

On the roster: Kyle Arrington, Sergio Brown, Darius Butler, Patrick Chung, Tony Carter, Devin McCourty, Brandon Meriweather, Jarrad Page and James Sanders. (Jonathan Wilhite, Leigh Bodden, Josh Barrett and Bret Lockett ended the season on injured reserve, while Thad Turner ended the year on the practice squad.)

Stat standouts: Leading tackler (according to coaches film review): Chung, 89, McCourty, 83. Interceptions: McCourty, 7. Passes defensed: McCourty, 17. Best single game: There were a few good candidates, but it’€™s hard to argue with McCourty’€™s effort on Thanksgiving Day against the Lions. He had two interceptions, two passes defensed and seven tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, McCourty only allowed two completions the entire game for a combined 13 yards despite being thrown at seven times. Three of those attempts came against all-world receiver Calvin Johnson, and only one of those was complete.

2010, in three sentences: Surprising. Without Leigh Bodden, McCourty emerged as a No. 1 corner, while Chung was as a solid presence in his second season and Sanders provided a steadiness and consistency at safety. However, questions still remain about the middle to back end of the depth chart, including Arrington, Butler and Wilhite, while Meriweather is a lightning rod for criticism.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Bret Lockett, Darius Butler
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