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Belichick: Starters will play in preseason finale

09.02.10 at 3:25 pm ET
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Rams Patriots Football

Bill Belichick. (AP)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick told New York’s WFAN Radio Thursday afternoon the New England starters are going to play in Thursday night’s preseason finale.

The fourth and final preseason game is usually the exclusive domain of the backups and other players who might be on the bubble before final cuts are made over the weekend. But in the wake of an uneven performance against St. Louis this week, that thinking may have changed according to Tom Brady. Brady said Belichick ripped into his team pretty good in the wake of the postgame film session.

“I think we’re all playing,” Brady told WEEI on Monday when he was asked about the starters. “[Belichick] told everybody, ‘Get ready to play.’”

It’s not known which starters will play and how many snaps they will see, but seeing some of the Patriots’ starters on the field for the preseason finale wouldn’t be unprecedented. In 2003, Brady and New England’s starting offense got the call in the fourth preseason game and played just over one quarter, finishing 8-for-10 for 63 yards and a touchdown against the Bears.

“I tell everybody to be ready to play every week — that’s what we do,” Belichick said earlier this week when asked about the possibility of the starters playing on Thursday. “Coaches control playing time, but players should be ready to play every week regardless of the score, situation, field conditions, or anything else. That’s their job. That’s their responsibility. That’s what it is every week. And that’s not going to change.”

Read More: Bill Belichick,

Surgery for Bodden Thursday

09.02.10 at 12:05 pm ET
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While the rest of his teammates were set on spending the day gearing up for their final preseason bout in tonight’s game with the Giants, cornerback Leigh Bodden had other, less exciting plans.

Bodden, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday, tweeted this morning that he would be getting surgery on the rotator cuff that will cost him 2010-2011.

“Up early in the morning for Surgery[.] Hungry as hell[.] I couldn’t eat after midnight…. I knew I should have set the alarm and ate at 11:50,” he tweeted.

Bodden was entering his second season as a member of the Patriots. He had five picks last season, one short of his career-high six that he recorded in ’07 with the Browns. A veteran of seven seasons spent between Cleveland, Detroit, and New England, the 28-year-old had signed a 4-year, $22 million dollar deal to stay with the Patriots in the offseason.

With Bodden out, it is likely that Darius Butler and Devin McCourty will emerge as the top two corners, with Terrence Wheatley potentially earning an increased role after an encouraging training camp.

Read More: Darius Butler, Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden,

Nuggetpalooza’s Pats schedule preview: Pittsburgh

09.02.10 at 11:07 am ET
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nuggetpalooza-small7The Patriots play the Steelers on Sunday night, Nov. 14, at 8:20 p.m., in Pittsburgh.

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What The Steelers Did Well last Season:

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* – Bendt But Didn’t Break: Opponents put together 23 drives of 10+ plays against the Steelers last season, but scored on just 57% of those possessions, tied (with SF) for the lowest percentage in the NFL.

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* – Few Gashing Runs Allowed: The Steelers allowed opponents just 35 runs of 10+ yards last season, the fewest in the NFL.

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* – Efficient Tackling On Defensive Line: Pittsburgh’s defensive linemen were credited with 160 tackles last season and ZERO broken tackles.  Their was the only defensive line in the league that did not allow a broken tackle.

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* – Avoided Three & Outs: Only 17% of Pittsburgh’s offensive possessions were “three and out” in 2009, the 4th lowest percentage in the league (Dallas, 16%).

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* – Avoided Opponents Goal-To-Go Situations: Steelers’ opponents managed just 15 “goal to go” situations last year, the fewest in the NFL:

15 – Pittsburgh Steelers
16 – New England Patriots
17 – Dallas Cowboys

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* – Stopped Receivers In Their Tracks: Pittsburgh stopped 76 different pass completions with zero (or negative) YAC (yards after catch), the most in the NFL.  That’s a big reason why YAC accounted for only 41.6% of the total passing yardage against Pittsburgh in 2009, the 2nd lowest percentage in the league:

41.0% – Indianapolis Colts
41.6% – Pittsburgh Steelers
41.8% – Atlanta Falcons

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* – Completed Long Passes: Pittsburgh QB’s combined to go 25-59 (42.4%) on passes of more than 20 “air” yards (where the first touch was 21+ yards beyond the line of scrimmage).  That was the 3rd highest percentage in the league:

47.5% – New Orleans Saints
42.6% – Houston Texans
42.4% – Pittsburgh Steelers

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Read More: Patriots schedule preview,

Ochocinco taking aim at a Gillette Stadium celebration

09.01.10 at 1:52 pm ET
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Chad Ochocinco has never been the shy, retiring type, and what he says he has planned for the regular-season opener against the Patriots is no exception.

Ochocinco said Tuesday on Twitter that if he scores against the Patriots on Sept. 12 at Gillette Stadium, he’s going to take one of the muskets from the Minutemen — who traditionally stand in the end zone each game and fire after each New England touchdown — and fire it, “as they do when the [Patriots] score” he wrote.

Ochocinco has traditionally engaged in some offbeat end zone celebrations, including jumping into the stands at Lambeau Field, “proposing” to a cheerleader and giving CPR to the football after a touchdown.

Read More: Chad Ochocinco,

Nuggetpalooza’s Pats schedule preview: Green Bay

09.01.10 at 10:54 am ET
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nuggetpalooza-small6The Patriots host the Packers on Sunday night, Dec. 19, at 8:20 p.m.

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What The Packers Did Well Last Season:

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* – Valued the Ball: Green Bay committed just 16 turnovers last season, the fewest in the league:

16 – Green Bay Packers
17 – San Diego Chargers
19 – Dallas Cowboys

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* – Limited Opponents 1st Down Success: Only 39% of opponents’ first down plays gained 4 or more yards last season, the 2nd best mark in the league (NY Jets, 38%).

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* – Converted Third Downs: The Packers converted 47% of their third down tries last season, the 3rd highest percentage in the league (Indianapolis, 49%).

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* – Created Turnovers Near The Goal Line: Green Bay’s defense created an NFL-high 6 turnovers when their opponent was in a “goal to go” situation last season (4 interceptions and 2 fourth down stops).

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* – Passed Effectively Against Blitzes: Green Bay posted an NFL-best passer rating of 113 against blitzes in 2009 which included a completion percentage versus blitzes of 70% (2nd) and 7.97 yards per pass play (3rd).

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* – Allowed No Easy TD Runs: The Packers were one of only three teams (SF and Dallas were the others) that did not allow a TD run from outside the 10 yard line last season. Two teams (New England and Cincinnati) allowed one each.

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* – Struck Quickly: The Packers scored 10 touchdowns in four plays or less last season, 3rd most in the league behind only Philadelphia (13) and New Orleans (11).

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* – Created Turnovers Early In Possessions: Green Bay created a whopping 26 turnovers during the first four plays of opponent possessions last season, by far the most in the NFL:

26 – Green Bay Packers
20 – Philadelphia Eagles
18 – New Orleans Saints
18 – San Francisco 49ers

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* – Effective Offensively With A Short Field: All those quick turnovers led to an NFL-high 12 scoring drives of less than 30 yards and a total of 16 that were less than 40 yards, also tops in the league:

16 – New York Jets
14 – Baltimore Ravens
14 – Philadelphia Eagles

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Read More: Patriots schedule preview,

Report: NFL examining Spikes’ tape

09.01.10 at 12:51 am ET
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The NFL is looking into a sexually explicit video of Patriots rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes and a woman that has been posted on the Internet, according to ESPN.

The video was posted earlier this week, and in an e-mail to WEEI.com on Tuesday, Spikes’ agent Terry Watson indicated that the rookie out of Florida is looking to move past this incident.

“Brandon is showing himself to be a high-character guy in the Boston community and has the promise of being a very good player,” wrote Watson.

The 22-year-old Spikes, who was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft by the Patriots, has started all three preseason games at inside linebacker for the Patriots, and has 18 tackles.

Read More: Brandon Spikes,

Analyzing the impact of losing Leigh Bodden to injured reserve

09.01.10 at 12:05 am ET
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Patriots Eagles Football

Darius Butler will move into the role of top cornerback. (AP)

It looks like we’ll know if Devin McCourty is truly a four-down player sooner rather than later.

Veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden was placed on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday night with a shoulder problem, ending a frustrating summer for the 28-year-old who struggled to see the field consistently throughout training camp because of knee and shoulder problems — all in the wake of a four-year, $22 million deal he signed with the Patriots in the offseason.

“I’m bummed,” Bodden tweeted shortly after the news was announced, who later added that a torn rotator cuff is what will keep him on the shelf. “I’ve been hitting bumps my whole career and always seem to get past [them]. This will be no different.”

Now, McCourty — along with second-year corner Darius Butler — will be asked to assume a whole lot more responsibility a lot earlier in his career than anticipated. McCourty will move into the starting spot on the left side, with Butler (who tweeted some words of encouragement to Bodden late Tuesday) moving to the right corner spot that was occupied by Bodden last season.

McCourty and Butler have had a chance to play together through a sizable bulk of the preseason. They have started all three games, and received most of the defensive snaps. They have had their ups and downs — against the Saints and Falcons, they both flashed some impressive skills, with McCourty showing a physical side rarely displayed by Patriots’ cornerbacks of the recent past.

While McCourty — described as a “four-down” player by Patriots coach Bill Belichick because of his ability to play defense and contribute on special teams — will be asked to assume a greater part of the game plan in his first year, the move to No. 1 corner will present a new series of challenges for Butler. The Connecticut product will now be asked to defend a premier receiver every week.

But how much of a step down from Bodden will he be? According to Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus, the dropoff isn’t as great as you might initially think. In an e-mail, Monson writes that while Bodden’s numbers were “better across the board than any of the other Patriots corners in [2009], it might surprise some to learn how close Darius Butler was in some areas.”
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Read More: Darius Butler, Devin McCourty, Jonathan Wilhite, Leigh Bodden
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