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Logan Mankins talks penalties, and take a little shot at yours truly

11.17.11 at 12:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Logan Mankins is one of the best quotes in the Patriots locker room. Unvarnished and unfiltered, he never fails to say what’s on his mind. And when he met the media on Thursday in the media workroom at Gillette Stadium, the veteran offensive lineman didn’t disappoint, especially when it came to talking about penalties.

“It’s been pretty good, except for the penalties. That’s kind of irritating. And then there’s been a couple of other plays I wish I could do over,” he said. “The false starts, they’re something that shouldn’t happen. But they have happened, and hopefully, I won’t have any more of those.”

Through nine games, he’s been flagged for the most penalties on the team (six penalties, including two offensive holding calls and four false starts, which have totaled 36 yards). He said Thursday that the last penalty called on him last Sunday night against the Jets “was a horrible call,” a holding call he got when he was locked up with Jets linebacker Bart Scott.

“I’m not even saying that to be funny,” he said as reporters laughed. “It was horrible.”

Mankins is in the first season of a six-year, $51 million deal he signed before the start of the season. He was asked about not having to worry about “off the field stuff” because of his new deal, and when he answered, he gave a specific answer in my direction.

“No, because like in years prior, once I’m here, I’m here,” he said. “But once you get a big contract, people like Chris Price here, they’re going to see if you were playing as good as you were before.”

Read More: Chris Price, Logan Mankins,

Meet the personable Tyler Palko: Philosopher, comedian, new Chiefs starting QB

11.16.11 at 9:20 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots are saying all the right things about Tyler Palko.

He’s a competent quarterback and they will be ready for him on Monday night at Gillette. He beat out Joe Flacco for a starting job at the University of Pittsburgh, sending Flacco packing for the University of Delaware. He is a strong-armed lefty who can scramble and can throw the ball from any arm angle.

All of which may be true, but ask Palko about his own future and he’s not about to draw conclusions or comparisons to Matt Cassel’s path to Kansas City.

“That’€™s nice for you guys to talk about, all that stuff, but you can’€™t write the story before it’€™s written,” Palko said Wednesday in a conference call, channeling his inner-Yogi Berra. “It’€™s obviously comparisons and all that other stuff, but that’€™s not going to win the game ‘€“ because it’€™s aligning this way or it’€™s not aligning this way. Right now, my job is to go out and to give our team a chance to win. I don’€™t have enough time to think about all that stuff and if you’€™re thinking about playing for a contract or playing because you’€™re facing a guy that it happened [to] or the guy that you’€™re replacing this happened to him and it’€™s going to happen to me, then you’€™re really taking your focus off what’€™s really important and that’€™s the game plan.

“And the task at hand is to try to beat the Patriots and it’€™s a heck of a task for us. Everybody on the team that night is going to need to be locked in and focused on one goal and that’€™s winning the football game because these guys that we’€™re facing on Monday night, they’€™re no slouch. They’€™re a great football team and the reason why they’€™re the New England Patriots is because they’€™ve done it over a long period of time.”

What did he see from the short-handed Patriots defensively, particularly against the Jets?

“That just goes to show you how good Coach [Bill Belichick] is,” Palko said. “He’€™s a defensive genius and he has a lot of guys out and they do a great job of trying to take away your strengths. They try to get you to make mistakes and get you behind the chains and put you in long yardage situations and try to make you make mistakes. I think Coach Belichick, he’€™s proven that he’€™s a defensive genius and I wouldn’€™t expect anything less. I’€™m sure he’€™s not feeling sorry for himself because he’€™s got some guys out. He’€™s got an untested quarterback and I’€™m sure he’€™s not going to take it easy on me.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: California Redwoods, joe flacco, Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Cassel

Tom Brady feels for old buddy Matt Cassel

11.16.11 at 4:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It is painfully ironic that Matt Cassel will miss Monday night’s game at Gillette Stadium against the team that gave him a chance at fame and fortune.

Everyone remembers the last time the Patriots played the Chiefs.

It was Opening Day 2008 and Bernard Pollard ran into the left knee of Tom Brady in the first quarter, knocking the QB out of the game and ending his season. Enter Matt Cassel. The former USC backup to Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart stepped in and won the game, 41-38, and led the Patriots to 11 wins, only to miss the playoffs.

That season earned him a six-year, $63 million contract, with $28 million guaranteed. It’s a deal he signed before the 2009 season with Scott Pioli and the Chiefs, after New England traded him and Mike Vrabel to KC for a ’09 second-round pick.

But the dreams of coming back to New England on Monday night and playing on that same field ended last Sunday when he broke a bone in his right hand, very possibly ending his season, and handing the reigns over to Tyler Palko. Cassel had surgery this week and there is still hope the Chiefs signal-caller could return.

So, is Brady disappointed Cassel isn’€™t going to play this week given the friendship between the two?

“Well, just for him being injured,” Brady said. “It sucks to be injured. There’€™s nobody that goes through a football season and doesn’€™t get injured ‘€“ you just hope it isn’€™t really a permanent injury. He’€™s a tough guy ‘€“ he’€™s as tough as anybody I’€™ve ever been around. I was disappointed for him that he won’€™t be able to be out there. I obviously have plenty of things that I need to worry about with our offense. It’€™s a very good team.”

Brady is going to be more concerned with Romeo Crennel, who knows Brady as well as anyone. Brady knows Crennel will be more than prepared for the challenge on Monday night.

“Defensively, they’€™re very well coached. We’€™ve been around Romeo [Romeo Crennel] for a long time so we have a decent understanding of what he does but we haven’€™t played these guys in awhile. They have some very good players defensively. We need really a good week so we can go out there and be very well prepared and play with confidence, play with anticipation and try to go out there and execute well.”

Read More: Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Cassel, New England Patriots, nfl

Pressure Points: Which New England defenders have done the best job of getting after the quarterback through nine games?

11.15.11 at 9:43 am ET
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According to official NFL gamebooks, opposing quarterbacks have 363 dropbacks against the Patriots through nine games this season, and have been hit by New England defenders a total of 49 times, to go along with 20 sacks (20th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of who has been getting to the quarterback for the Patriots through nine games:

Quarterback hits:
Defensive end Andre Carter: 16
Defensive end/linebacker Mark Anderson: Seven
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork: Six
Linebacker Dane Fletcher: Four
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich: Four
Defensive lineman Myron Pryor: Three
Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth: Two
Defensive lineman Kyle Love: Two
Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis: One
Defensive lineman Gerard Warren: One
Safety Pat Chung: One
Linebacker Brandon Spikes: One
Cornerback Phillip Adams: One

Sacks:
Carter: 9
Anderson: 5
Ninkovich: 1.5
Wilfork: 1.5
Chung: One
Love: One
Pryor: 0.5
Mike Wright: 0.5

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher

WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 11

11.15.11 at 7:17 am ET
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Week 10 concluded with news of some major injuries across the league. Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel both are out for the year. The Texans (13) finally looked like a team that could win a playoff game in Houston but now it seems unlikely with Matt Leinart next in line. The Chiefs (23) drop four spots after finding out Matt Cassel’s season is over and after losing to the Broncos. Michael Vick is another quarterback that suffered an injury on Sunday. The Eagles QB will have to deal with broken ribs as he tries to miraculously save the season for Philly.

There wasn’t much movement in the top five. Despite being upset by the Seahawks (25), the Ravens remain at No. 3. The two wins over the Steelers (4) and the fact the Saints (5) have some questionable losses this year as well were the major determining factors. The Packers (1) and 49ers (2) remain atop of the rest of the league.

The Bears (6) and Patriots (9) are among the teams on the rise after both were victorious in their respective divisional games. After starting the season on a roll, both the Lions (10) and Bills (17) have fallen in the ranks over the past few weeks.

Byes: Colts, Saints, Steelers, Texans

1. (1) Packers (9-0) ‘€” As each week passes, it increasingly looks like the Packers are on a whole different level than the rest of the teams in the NFL. Green Bay hasn’t lost a game since Week 15 against the Patriots. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have put up 30 or more points six times and 40 or more points four times. Whether its Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver, James Starks or another one of the many weapons in Rodgers arsenal, it seems like every offensive player contributes.

2. (2) 49ers (8-1) ‘€” That’s seven straight wins now for the first-place 49ers. The magic number for making the playoffs is now three for Jim Harbaugh’s team. There are many reasons why they’ve been successful this year. The Niners are well coached, make few mistakes, and have a physical defense that hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season.

3. (3) Ravens (6-3) ‘€” It seems like the Ravens play to the level of their opponent. Two of their three losses have come against teams who don’€™t even have the slightest chance of making the playoffs. The offensive play-calling in the loss to the Seahawks was very questionable. When a team has a running back the caliber of Ray Rice, one would expect that he would have a hefty workload. However, he only had five carries while Joe Flacco threw the ball 52 times.

4. (4) Steelers (7-3) ‘€” The Steelers are heading into their bye week coming off their first division win of the year. In the win against the Bengals, the “Steel Curtain” D forced two interceptions and didn’t allow a point in the fourth quarter. During the bye week, the Steelers should be focused on improving the offensive line and finding ways to get Rashard Mendenhall and the run game back on track.

5. (6) Saints (7-3) ‘€” The NFC South is the Saints to lose after beating the Falcons on Sunday. Everyone knows how dominant Drew Brees and the offense is, but the Saints defense was the difference maker in the win against Atlanta. The Saints D has struggled mightily but came away with the biggest play of the season so far for the team. A big overtime stop on 4th down is the type of play a defense can build off.

6. (10) Bears (6-3) ‘€” Behind a physical defense, a strong offensive line, a dynamic running back, and a quarterback who has limited his mistakes, the Bears have won four straight games. The offensive line and Jay Cutler have improved tremendously over that time. Cutler has thrown just six picks all year. Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith are the only, every-game starting quarterbacks who have thrown fewer interceptions.

7. (5) Falcons (5-4) ‘€” A veteran, talented team like the Falcons should be able to bounce back from Sunday’s devastating loss. They do need to see some improvement in specific areas. The pass rush has been inconsistent. The Falcons defense has sacked the quarterback just 15 times this year and is ranked at the bottom of league in that category. Roddy White needs to get back to becoming the dominating receiver he was last season. White is dropping passes and his yards, catches, and touchdown totals are all dramatically down from 2010.

8. (8) Giants (6-3) ‘€” Living on the edge finally caught up to the Giants. Games have been decided by one score or less in five of their last six. The injury to linebacker Michael Boley seemed to be the major factor in Sunday’s loss. Boley is one of the leaders on that defense and wears the green dot on his helmet. It’s hard to believe Vernon Davis would have been wide open to score the go-ahead touchdown if Boley was in the game. The Giants have a great opportunity next week to gain more ground in the division with the Eagles scheduled to come to town.

9. (11) Patriots (6-3) ‘€” The relentless, high-energy way the Patriots defense played on Sunday night is exactly what they’ll need to see on a consistent basis. Tom Brady was able to get his offense back on track with the no-huddle. The Patriots have had success with the no-huddle and it was easy to tell that it caught the Jets off guard. Forcing turnovers, scoring off those turnovers, and running a precise offense is exactly what Patriots fans have been accustomed to seeing over the years.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: aaron rodgers, NFL Power Rankings, Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow

Following the flags: Breaking down the Patriots penalties through nine games

11.14.11 at 9:20 pm ET
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Through nine games this season, the Patriots have been flagged for 61 penalties and 551 yards. Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against New England, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
OL Logan Mankins: six penalties (two offensive holding and four false starts), 36 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: five penalties (holding, false start, facemask, unsportsmanlike conduct, illegal touch pass), 49 yards
OL Nate Solder: four penalties (three holding and illegal use of hands), 40 yards
Team: five penalties (12 men on the field, offensive holding, illegal block above the waist, two illegal substitutions), 34 yards
S Sergio Brown: four penalties (three defensive pass interference and one unnecessary roughness), 86 yards
OL Matt Light: three penalties (two holding and one false start), 20 yards
LB Dane Fletcher: two penalties (offensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 17 yards
OL Brian Waters: two penalties (holding, offensive holding), 15 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: two penalties (holding, encroachment), 11 yards
TE Dan Gronkowski: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards
CB Leigh Bodden: two penalties (both defensive holding), 10 yards
WR Wes Welker: two penalties (illegal motion, false start), 10 yards
S Pat Chung: two penalties (unnecessary roughness and facemask), 15 yards
WR Deion Branch: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards
WR Chad Ochocinco: two penalties (illegal formation, false start), 9 yards
QB Tom Brady: two penalties (one delay of game and one intentional grounding), 10 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: one penalty (defensive pass interference), 35 yards
DL Andre Carter: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
LB Rob Ninkovich: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
DL Kyle Love: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
OL Dan Connolly: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
S James Ihedigbo: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
CB Devin McCourty: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
TE Aaron Hernandez: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: two penalties (unsportsmanlike conduct, unnecessary roughness), 17 yards
OL Sebastian Vollmer: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
K Stephen Gostkowski: one penalty (illegal onsides kick), 5 yards
DE Mark Anderson: one penalty (defensive offsides), 5 yards
RB BenJarvus Green Ellis: one penalty (illegal substitution), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Offensive line: 17 penalties for 131 yards
Safety: seven penalties for 123 yards
Tight end: eight penalties for 64 yards
Wide receiver: six penalties for 29 yards
Linebacker: five penalties for 43 yards
Cornerback: four penalties for 55 yards
Team: five penalties for 34 yards
Defensive line: five penalties for 52 yards
Running back: one penalty for six yards
Quarterback: two penalties for 10 yards
Kicker: one penalty for five yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
False start: 14
Offensive holding: 14
Defensive pass interference: four
Illegal block above the waist: four
Unnecessary roughness: three
Roughing the passer: three
Illegal substitution: three
Unsportsmanlike conduct: two
Defensive holding: two
Facemask: two
Illegal formation: one
Illegal use of hands: one
Illegal motion: one
Twelve men in the huddle: one
Illegal onside kick: one
Encroachment: one
Delay of game: one
Intentional grounding: one
Defensive offsides: one
Illegal touch pass: one

Read More: Patriots, penalties,

Some final thoughts on the Patriots win over the Jets

11.14.11 at 8:23 pm ET
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Before the page is turned, three more things about Patriots and Jets…

Julian Edelman working as a defensive back: With New England perilously think at corner after the injury to Devin McCourty, the former college quarterback worked as the slot corner for a handful of plays in the second half. (ESPN Boston had him listed with four defensive snaps.) On Monday, Bill Belichick said the Patriots went with less intricate coverage schemes when he was in the game, but added that Edelman knows his way around the defensive playbook. “He has to be able to play what we’€™re running,” explained Belichick on Monday. “We’€™re not probably looking to run every single call in the book at that point; we’€™re going with two or three calls there at the end of the game because of the situation. He’€™ll know enough; he does know enough. He’€™s a smart kid. He’€™s worked in there before. He would know enough to do be able to do whatever it is we have.”

The Patriots won the special teams battle: It wasn’t just Niko Koutouvides recovering a key fumble on a third-quarter punt. It wasn’t just Zoltan Mesko putting two of his four punts inside the 20 and averaging 46.8 yards per punt. And it wasn’t just Matthew Slater making a great special teams tackle on a punt return. Stephen Gostkowski rebounded from one of the worst games of his career to go 3-for-3 on field goal attempts (connecting from 50, 36 and 27 yards), put four of his nine kickoffs in the end zone and make good on all four extra-point attempts. When compared to his counterpart Nick Folk (who set the tone with a missed 24-yarder on the Jets opening drive), Gostkowski certainly stood tall.

No Gary Guyton: At all: There were various moments during the night where we saw Guyton standing on the sidelines. He was dressed and ready to go, but all his snaps  at inside linebacker were taken by Jeff Tarpinian. In the end, the only two players who dressed but did not play a single snap were Guyton and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. (We tried to find out how many times, if at all, Guyton dressed but did not play, but we couldn’t find it. According to Pro Football Focus, Sunday night marked the fewest snaps for Guyton since he played just two snaps in Week 2 of the 2008 season against the Jets.) Guyton was questionable heading into the game with a shoulder injury. On Monday, Belichick was asked about Guyton’s playing time. “Players that were active for the game were active for the game. The players that weren’€™t active, either weren’€™t active because of injuries or because of coaching decisions,” Belichick said. “Anybody that was active for the game was able to play. He missed some time this week in practice and that was a concern going into the game, but he was active for the game.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brian Hoyer, Devin McCourty, Gary Guyton

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