|01.04.15 at 9:44 am ET|
PITTSBURGH — While most of the talk in the Ravens locker room following their 30-17 win over the Steelers on Saturday night revolved around the AFC wild card round victory, some discussion involving the Patriots couldn’t be helped.
With the Patriots having already lost one AFC championship game in Foxboro to the Ravens, while narrowly managing a victory in another, the showdown between the teams at Gillette Stadium (Saturday, 4:35 p.m.) surfaced plenty of emotion and analysis even moments after the win at Heinz Field.
Here are some of the Ravens’ comments Saturday night regarding their next playoff foe, the Patriots:
“We’re going to enjoy this plane ride home, but we all know who we’re dealing with next.”
“Everybody knows the history with these two teams. We’re going to play a football game. It’s the Ravens vs. the Patriots. Everybody knows the storylines. We’re going to save that. Right now it’s still Ravens, Steelers and we’ll see you all next week.”
“We all know the matchup the NFL wants to see. Something for the TV, for the sponsors. We’ve got faith in ourselves and Ravens Nation and we’ll see if we can disrupt some people’s plans.”
“I have to go watch some film and be prepared. [Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner are] two great corners. Me and Revis has played against each other, he’s done a very good job so I anticipate watching a lot of film like I did this week and being prepared and ready.”
“That’s been my experience since I’ve been here. That’s just the way it is. If you want to go to the Super Bowl, you have to go through the Patriots first.”
“From an emotional point of view, for the guys who have played in Foxboro, I’m not going to say can give you an edge but it gives you a sense of comfort where you’re not really shaken by the fans or how loud it is because you’ve been in that situation and you’ve had experience. For guys who have played in Foxboro I feel like they will be more comfortable. It won’t be one of those situations where they freak out or freeze up.”
“We just have to go out and play our game. Play like Ravens. A lot of energy and just try and get after people. That’s all we can do. They’re a well-coached team. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us.”
|01.03.15 at 11:25 pm ET|
Here come the Ravens.
Baltimore went into Pittsburgh and knocked off the Steelers by a 30-17 count Saturday night in an AFC wild card contest. With the win, the Ravens advance to the divisional playoff round and a matchup with the Patriots Saturday at 4:35 at Gillette Stadium. It will mark the fourth time in the last six postseasons the Patriots and Ravens will renew their playoff feud, a stretch that includes a pair of AFC title games. (Baltimore has won two of those previous three contests.)
Joe Flacco ended up 18-for-29 for 259 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr. had five catches on seven targets for 101 yards, and tight end Owen Daniels added four catches on five targets for 70 yards.
The Steelers were without their No. 1 offensive option, as running back Le’Veon Bell went down with a knee injury in the regular-season finale against the Bengals, and Pittsburgh struggled to find offensive rhythm for much of the evening. The Steelers, who were the seventh-highest scoring team in the league over the course of the regular season, had just one touchdown on the night as they saw their year come to a close. Ben Roethlisberger finished 30-for-44 for 327 yards and one interception. He was picked off twice and sacked five times in the loss. Antonio Brown had nine catches for 117 yards for the Steelers, who end their season with a 12-5 record.
At the start, it was a typical AFC North rockfight — tough, physical football with points at a premium. There was only one first half touchdown, that coming at the end of an impressive eight-play drive that culminated in a 5-yard run from Bernard Pierce to give Baltimore a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. Other than that, there were three field goals from the Steelers and one from the Ravens, which left it 10-9 at halftime.
|01.03.15 at 7:52 pm ET|
In what was a sloppy game to open the NFL postseason (six turnovers), the Panthers capitalized on three Cardinals’ turnovers to win 27-16 at home. The Panthers entered the game 7-8-1, but were able to win the NFC South to earn the No. 4 seed in the NFC.
Carolina led 10-0, but went into the locker room trailing 14-13 because of some bad turnovers late in the first half. The home team responded with 14 points in the third quarter to take command of the game. The only points Arizona scored in the second half were on a safety the Panthers took with three seconds left in the game.
Fozzy Whittaker caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cam Newton with 5:49 left in the third quarter, and then following a fumble on the kickoff, the Panthers scored just over a minute later on a Mike Tolbert 1-yard touchdown catch to extend their lead to 27-14.
Newton finished the game 18-for-32 with 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It was his first career playoff win. Running back Jonathan Stewart rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. The Carolina defense played very well limiting Arizona to just 77 yards of total offense, and eight first downs. Cardinals quarterback (third string) Ryan Lindley was just 16-for-28 with 81 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times.
The Panthers will now await the result of tomorrow’s Lions-Cowboys game to know who they will play next. If the Lions were to win, the Panthers would travel to Green Bay. If the Cowboys were to win, the Panthers would travel to Seattle.
For more Patriots and NFL playoff coverage, visit weei.com/patriots.
|01.03.15 at 10:27 am ET|
With the playoff picture now set, it’s time to start sizing up their possible postseason opponents for the Patriots. We’ve profiled the Broncos, Ravens and Steelers and Colts. We’ll wrap things up with the Bengals:
The skinny: The Bengals wrapped up the season with a 10-5-1 mark and the fifth seed in the AFC playoff picture. Cincy started strong with a 3-0 record before getting poleaxed in Week 4 against the Patriots, 43-17. It provided a jumpstart for a sluggish New England team, and marked the start of a three-game winless streak for the Bengals. Cincinnati bounced back nicely and stayed in the thick of the playoff chase all year long, despite the up-and-down year from quarterback Andy Dalton, who might have been the only signal-caller in the league with five games with 250 or more yards passing and four games where he had less than 150 yards passing. (In fact, Dalton had arguably the worst game any starting quarterback played this year, while also finishing the season with six games where he completed almost 70 percent of his passes.)
Offense: Good or bad, Dalton (64 percent completion rate, 3,398 yards, 19 TDs, 17 INTs, 83.5 passer rating) is the centerpiece of the Cincinnati offense. The biggest question for the Bengals is the health of wide receiver A.J. Green (69 catches, 117 targets, 1,041 yards, 6 TDs). Green remains one of the best young receivers in the league, but is a question mark for the wild-card contest agains the Colts because of concussion issues. Tight end Jermaine Gresham (62 catches, 80 targets, 460 yards, 5 TDs) and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (56 catches, 98 targets, 790 yards, 5 TDs) are secondary options for Dalton in the passing game
The Bengals do a good job running the ball, and if Green is on the shelf for an extended stretch in the postseason, running back Jeremy Hill (222 carries, 1,124 rushing yards, 9 TDs, 5.1 yards per carry) will become even more important to the success of the Cincy offense. Hill has at least four games of 145 yards or more, and evolved into one of the better young backs in the game. Gio Bernard (168 carries, 680 yards, 5 TDs, 4 yards per carry) provides a nice complementary piece to the Bengals’ round game. Bernard also brings some multidimensional punch, as he finished the season with 43 catches for 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Overall, the Bengals are 15th in the league in scoring at 22.8 points per game.
Defense: It was a tale of two seasons for the Cincinnati run defense: In their first nine games, the Bengals yielded at least 90 yards rushing in each contest. But in six of their last seven games, the Bengals were able to hold their opponents under 100 yards on the ground. In all, Cincinnati ended the year 20th in the league against the run, having allowed 116.3 rushing yards per game.
Read the rest of this entry »
|01.03.15 at 9:00 am ET|
With the Patriots off this weekend, earning a first-round bye by the way of the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, we’re going to look back at the top 10 moments of the 2014 season. A season in which the Patriots were sitting 2-2 after Week 4 with some saying it was the start of the fall of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, and now it’s the first week of the postseason and the Patriots have earned a first-round bye for the 10th time in franchise history by way of their 12-4 record this season.
10. Tom Brady eclipsing 50,000 career passing yards in win over Cincinnati
Brady has certainly asserted himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. In Week 5’s win over the Bengals, Brady eclipsed the 50,000 passing yard mark for his career. He became just the sixth player in NFL history to reach the mark. Brady would later pass John Elway later in the season to currently sit at No. 5 on the all-time list trailing: Drew Brees, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.
It was a special night at Gillette Stadium (more on that later) as the milestone was flashed on the video board inside the stadium and fans began to chant, “Brady! Brady! Brady!”
9. Patriots/Gillette Stadium showing love to Pete Frates
The Patriots showed their support of Pete Frates — the Ice Bucket Challenge creator and ALS patient — a few times this season. Frates was a guest of Robert Kraft at the regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium on his 30th birthday. To honor Frates, he was shown on the video board on the sidelines with Kraft and Frates’ family at the two minute warning of the first half and the crowd was instructed to sing “Happy Birthday.” On cue, 68,756 fans sung Happy Birthday to Frates in what was truly a special moment.
During training camp, when the Ice Bucket Challenge was reaching its peak, the Patriots, along with Kraft and Belichick, did the challenge following one of their practices.
Click here to see the video via the Patriots’ team website.
8. Chris Jones’ blocked field goal vs. Jets
While a game against a team in the Jets that finished the season 4-12 shouldn’t have come down to a field goal in the closing seconds, that is what happened. Nick Folk was attempting a 58-yard field goal, which could have given the Jets a one-point win, but Jones was able to block the kick, giving the Patriots a 27-25 win on Oct. 16 at Gillette Stadium.
It was extra special for Jones given it came almost a year to the day that he was called for an illegal push at the line in overtime that gave the Jets and Folk a second chance on a field goal attempt and Folk connected to give the Jets a win in 2013 at MetLife Stadium.
“A few people have told me about it, so I’ve had a chance to think about it,” Jones said. “It feels good. That was last year and it’s just good to get a win this year. I think it really became a reality when coach [special teams assistant] Joe Judge came up and told me. I felt it then. Honestly it’s just good to get a win. Obviously it’s always good to beat a division rival. The Jets gave us their best and we’re just glad to come out with the win.”
7. Scoring three touchdowns in 57 seconds vs. Bears
The Patriots dominated the Bears in a 51-23 rout on Oct. 26, but it was a 57-second span at the end of the first half, which really changed the game. New England scored three touchdowns in 57 seconds, scoring 31 total first half points and taking a 38-7 lead into the locker room.
With 1:55 left in the half, Rob Gronkowski caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brady to give the Patriots a 24-7 lead. The Patriots defense then forced a quick 3-and-out and Julian Edelman returned the punt 42 yards to the Bears’ 19-yard line. Brady then connected with Brandon LaFell for a 9-yard touchdown on the next play. Then, on the Bears’ first play following the touchdown, Rob Ninkovich picked up a fumble and returned it 15 yards for another Patriots touchdown with 55 seconds still to play in the half.
The Patriots became one of three teams to score three touchdowns in under a minute since the 1970 merger, and are the only team to have achieved the feat twice.
|01.02.15 at 9:23 pm ET|
The skinny: The Colts went 6-0 against the AFC South. They were 5-5 outside their division. That’s pretty much all you need to know about Indy, which is the fourth seed in the AFC playoff picture, and will host the fifth-seeded Bengals on Sunday in a Wild Card contest. There’s a lot to like about this Indy team — Andrew Luck is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, they get great production from their passing game from players like T.Y. Hilton and there are enough good pieces on the defensive side of the ball that they can be competitive. But, this is a young team that really didn’t progress much from 2013 to 2014. As a result, this team still probably isn’t capable of playing in the deep end of the pool just yet.
Offense: It begins and ends with Luck. In his third year in the league, he was a bonafide MVP candidate for a portion of the season, and played the lead role in making sure the Colts were the best passing team in the league this season with an average of 306 yards per game. Luck (62 percent completion rate, 4,761 passing yards, 40 TDs, 16 INTs, 96.5 passer rating) looks for Hilton (82 catches, 131 targets, 1,345 yards, t TDs) and veteran Reggie Wayne (64 catches, 116 targets, 779 yards, 2 TDs), as well as tight end Coby Fleener (51 catches, 92 targets, 774 yards, 8 TDs).
Luck needs to be that good for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Colts really can’t run the ball. Indy had seven games where they failed to reach the 100-yard mark as a team, including outings where they had 1-yard (against Dallas), 19 yards (against the Patriots) and 54 yards (against the Broncos.) Indy averages 100.8 rushing yards per game — 22nd in the league. (It’s the worst total of any of the AFC playoff teams.) Trent Richardson is the closest thing they have to a feature back, but his 519 rushing yards on 159 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per carry probably won’t do much in the playoffs,.
Overall, the Colts are sixth in the league in scoring at 28.6 points per game.
Read the rest of this entry »
|01.02.15 at 3:48 pm ET|
Last week it was reported Josh McDaniels would be interviewing with the 49ers and Falcons. Add another team interested in McDaniels’ services — the Buffalo Bills.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Bills have requested permission to interview the Patriots’ offensive coordinator for their vacant head coaching job.
UPDATE 9:15 p.m.: SI and MMQB’s Peter King reports the Bills and McDaniels will not meet, as they didn’t get an interview during the allotted window during the bye week.
“I think the one thing that works against him is the fact that there are a lot of good candidates, and he’s going to be on a playoff team and is there going to be a team out there that’s willing to wait for him? I don’t know that that’s going to be the case,” Schefter said on WEEI’s MFB earlier in the day, before he reported the Bills’ interest. “But I don’t think he’s concerned. I think he loves being there, you’re in a great organization. If you get one of these head coaching jobs this year, great. And if you don’t, guess what? There were teams last year who were after him, there are teams this year who are after him, and if he doesn’t get one this year there’ll be teams next year who are after him.
“So in a perfect world you’d get a chance to get one of these jobs. But he’s in a bit of a tricky situation, because you’ve got the playoffs going on, there are some good candidates out there, are all these teams going to be willing to wait? A lot of things still have to be decided. But we do know Falcons today, 49ers tomorrow, and we’ll see how that goes.”
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
‘ Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 2, 2015
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