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Ex-Patriot Curtis Martin a semifinalist for Hall of Fame

11.28.10 at 1:34 pm ET
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Among the 26 semifinalists announced Sunday for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011 is former Patriots running back Curtis Martin.

Martin, a third-round pick of New England in 1995, rushed for 3,799 yards in three seasons with the Patriots, including 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie. In all, he played 11 seasons in the NFL, finishing with 14,101 rushing yards and 90 touchdowns.

Martin is is the only semifinalist with New England connections to make the cut ‘€” some of the other notable semifinalists included running backs Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk, offensive lineman Willie Roaf, defensive back Deion Sanders, wide receivers Cris Carter and Tim Brown, as well as coach Don Coryell, owners Edward DeBartolo, Jr. and Art Modell and former commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

The list of 26 semifinalists will be reduced to 17, and from that list, the Class of 2011 will be determined at the Selection Committee’s annual meeting on Feb. 5 in North Texas the day before Super Bowl XLV.

Read More: Curtis Martin, Pro Football Hall of Fame,

Josh McDaniels, Broncos fined $50K for taping walk-thru

11.27.10 at 1:58 pm ET
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It appears ‘Spygate’ is about to be re-visited as the Patriots get ready to take on – drum roll, please – the New York Jets.

In a story full of irony, Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels and the organization have been fined $50,000 each by the NFL for taping a San Francisco 49ers walk-through prior to their game in London last month.

The team reported the league violation to the NFL. McDaniels took the fine on behalf of Steve Scarnecchia, who filmed the 49ers prior to their game on Oct. 31, a game won by San Francisco, 24-16. Scarnecchia, the son of Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, was fired as a result of the violation

“I apologize for not promptly reporting the improper conduct of our video director before our game against the 49ers in London,” McDaniels said in a statement released Saturday. “The actions of this individual are in no way representative of the values held by myself, our players and coaches, and the entire Denver Broncos organization. I understand the punishment from the NFL and support it’s commitment to the integrity of the game. We have addressed the situation internally to make sure nothing like this happens again.”

McDaniels was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots in 2007 when coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Pats docked $250,000 and a 2008 first-round pick for Matt Estrella‘s  illegal filming of the Jets during their season-opening win in their 16-0 regular season. Former Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, who was the Jets head coach in 2007, reported the violation.

There were also allegations by former Patriots staffer Matt Walsh that he was told by the Patriots to tape the Rams’ walk-thru prior to New England’s Super Bowl XXXVI win in Feb. 2002. The Patriots were not penalized for those charges.

What makes this all the more surreal and coincidental, Steve Scarnecchia succeeded Walsh with the Patriots. According to the New York Times, Walsh told Senator Arlen Specter that he witnessed Scarnecchia illegally tape the Steelers in 2002 and the Steelers and Cowboys during their second Super Bowl championship season in 2004.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia, Denver Broncos, Josh McDaniels

Hill: Patriots tried to break my arm

11.26.10 at 12:56 pm ET
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Lions quarterback Shaun Hill has accused the Patriots to break his left arm during a play in Thursday’s game, according to MLive.com.

Hill alleges that during a quarterback sneak during the second quarter of Thursday’s game, he extended his arms toward the goal line and felt someone in the scrum trying to break his arm, which was broken five weeks ago.

“That’s why I eventually gave up on the ball,” Hill told reporters. “Somebody was down there [in the pile] literally trying to break my arm, which is already broken. Literally, trying. And, uh, you know, I guess wasn’t seen by officials.”

Read More: Patriots, Shaun Hill,

Tom Brady loves his ‘Patriot kind of guys’

11.25.10 at 4:58 pm ET
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Tom Brady opened his press conference appropriately enough.

“I don’t have long guys, I’m going to warn you,” Brady said, with Michigan family and friends waiting.

That was appropriate because it was exactly how the first half unfolded and one of the big reasons the Patriots were down 17-10 at halftime to the 2-8 Lions. Taking a page from Al Davis‘ handbook on quarterbacks, the Lions sent Brady down to the ground in the first half, and sent him down hard.

Ndamukong Suh sacked Brady in the first quarter and the Lions’ athletic front, led by Kyle Vanden Bosch, hit Brady hard at least five other times as Brady was held in check.

“Once the speed of the game slowed down, we got everything under control,” Brady said. “They’ve got a hell of a pass rush.”

Then the offensive line held their end of the bargain in the second half, keeping Brady upright and allowing the QB to fire four TDs, including a long, game-changing 79-yard bomb to Deion Branch, abusing poor Lions CB Alphonso Smith in the process. The Patriots went on to score a 45-24 win over the Lions in Detroit on Thursday.

“He was supposed to run and in-cut and the guy was sitting on it,” Brady said. “He threw his hand up and I threw it out there for him. He made a great run after catch. Certainly it’s not the way we drew it up. Just a great play by a great player.”

Wes Welker also had a great day, catching a pair of touchdown passes. Welker and Branch are Brady’s kind of guys.

“They’re everything you look for smart, tough. Patriots kind of guys, do whatever you ask,” Brady raved. “Right in the mold of the Troy Browns and David Pattens and the David Givens. Just spectacular players.

But it was rookie cornerback Devin McCourty who was just as important to Brady. He picked off Shaun Hill twice, leading to a pair of Patriot TDs.

“We showed some resiliency, coming out playing in the second half the way we did,” Brady said. “The crowd was really into it. I think Devin’s interception was a huge play in the game. We executed much better in the second half so it was a great effort.

“I think we’ve shown improvement. We’re not where we need to be. Still haven’t played 60 minutes yet. This is a tough group. I think we’re going to fight to the end. We showed some resiliency and that’s what we needed.

Read More: Deion Branch, detroit lions, Devin McCourty, Ndamukong Suh

Snap Judgments: Patriots 45, Lions 24

11.25.10 at 3:47 pm ET
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It wasn’t a masterpiece for the Patriots on Thanksgiving but it’ll do, as Tom Brady threw four TD passes (two each to Wes Welker and Deion Branch) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for another two scores in a 45-24 win over the Lions. The win moves New England to 9-2 on the season, for now the best record in the NFL (the 8-2 Jets host the Bengals on Thursday night).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Another big game for Brady: Tom Brady did nothing to silence those who feel he has been the 2010 NFL MVP to this point, completing 21-of-27 passes for 341 yards and four TDs. All four TD passes and 231 passing yards came in a brilliant second half from Brady, who continued to use more and more play action to set up big gainers in the game, something that has really clicked since the Sunday night win at Pittsburgh. Despite a near-constant pass rush in the first half and a couple of tough hits in the second half, Brady again managed to avoid throwing an interception. Brady hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 6.

Welker and Branch: Wes Welker found the end zone twice (now has six for 2010) and finished with eight catches for 90 yards as he continues to look more and more like the pre-injury Welker each week. But the story of the game for the Pats offense was Deion Branch, who had zero catches in the first half but exploded in the second, first hauling in a 79-yard TD pass to tie the game at 24-24 at the end of the third quarter (which included Branch abusing Alphonso Smith after the catch — Smith was also run over by BenJarvus Green-Ellis on his first TD rush) and then grabbing a 22-yard TD on a skinny post to give the Pats a 31-24 lead early in the fourth. Three catches for 113 yards and the two TDs for Branch, who last had a 100-yard game with the Patriots on October 9, 2005 (Atlanta).

Devin McCourty: The Patriots defense needed someone to step up and make an impact play on defense, and McCourty came through, intercepting Hill on the opening possession of the third quarter (nice leaping catch on a pass intended for Calvin Johnson) and returning the pick for 23 yards. The Patriots took advantage of the short field, putting together a 26-yard TD drive. McCourty collected his second INT of the game in the fourth quarter (and fifth of the season — tied for NFL rookie lead), returning it 50 yards with just over five minutes left to put the game away.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Pats O-Line was dominated early: A group that has been a huge strength for the Patriots in 2010 had a rough outing on Thursday, particularly in the first 30 minutes. Tom Brady had almost no time to make plays in the first half, being pressured six times, knocked down five and sacked once. Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch each knocked down Brady twice in the first half, as Sebastian Vollmer and Logan Mankins both struggled to contain the Lions. A much stronger effort by the O-Line in the second half, but overall the weakest performance by the group all season.

Where’s the pressure?: As has been the case all season, the Patriots defense was unable to get to the opposing quarterback, which was as big a reason as any why Shaun Hill was able to lead the Lions on a pair of long scoring drives in the first half and another in the third quarter. And even when the Patriots got close to Hill they came up short, as Rob Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo and Tully Banta-Cain all whiffed on a third-and-6 Hill run on the Lions second TD drive.

Curious Fourth-Down Call: With the Patriots facing a fourth-and-1 at the Lions two-yard-line on their second drive of the first quarter, Bill Belichick surprised everyone and elected to eschew his trademark “go for it” approach and instead send Shayne Graham out to kick a 19-yard FG that gave the Pats a 3-0 lead. The Lions were far more aggressive in the Fourth Down Department, scoring a pair of TDs on fourth-down rushes in the first half.

Halftime analysis: Lions 17, Patriots 10

11.25.10 at 1:58 pm ET
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Two quarters are in the books at Ford Field, and the Lions are up 17-10. Here are a few quick notes:

For the Patriots, Tom Brady is 10-for-13 for 110 yards, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis had seven rushes for 39 yards and a touchdown and Wes Welker had four catches for 47 yards. On the other side of the ball, Lions quarterback Shaun Hill is 15-for-22 for 126 yards and a touchdown, while Maurice Morris has six carries for 27 yards and Nate Burleson has three catches for 35 yards.

On defense, the Patriots were able to stop the Lions on their first two third-down opportunities. Early on, the Lions leaned heavily on Morris ‘€” six of the first eight touches went to Morris. But Detroit was able to start converting on third down, and as a result, the Lions put together a nice drive on its next two series: first, a 13-play. 63-yard sequence highlighted by a pair of runs for first downs by Hill (eight yards and 13 yards) and a 19-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Calvin Johnson to make it 7-3, Detroit. On the touchdown play, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington, who was in coverage, slipped and fell, leaving Johnson open for the touchdown.

After the Patriots were unable to get anything going offensively on their next drive, the Lions followed that up with an impressive 11-play, 71-yard drive that took five minutes off the clock and ended with a one-yard run by Morris to make it 14-3. The key play of that series was a fourth-and-1 for the Lions from the New England two-yard line. Hill converted the fourth-down on a sneak, and a play later, Morris plunged over from the one for the score. A couple of really impressive scoring drives that got the Ford Field crowd into it.

After such a great start last week against the Colts, the New England offense struggled mightily out of the gate against the Lions, managing just one field goal in the first quarter. Brady was knocked around pretty well throughout the first half, with the New England offensive line getting dominated up front by the likes of Ndamukong Suh (who had one first-quarter sack) and Kyle Vanden Bosch, who crushed Brady on at least two occasions. In addition, there were a couple of occasions where there appeared to be miscommunication between Brady and his pass catchers, as well as a bad drop in the second quarter by Brandon Tate with just under four minutes left in the first half.

New England was able to get back into the game on its final drive of the half when Brady helped engineer a 10-play, 83-yard drive that featured a nice mix of run and pass that took 5:13. The series ended with a five-yard touchdown run by Green-Ellis where he just trucked defensive back Alphonso Smith at the three, while offensive linemam Dan Koppen and Dan Connolly provided some great blocks of their own on the way to the score that made it 14-10.

Right before the end of the half, Hill maneuvered the Lions into position for a 44-yard field goal by Dave Raymer that ended the first-half scoring.

Read More: halftime analysis, lions, Patriots,

Danny Woodhead gets Thanksgiving dessert from Pats

11.25.10 at 1:00 pm ET
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Patriots running back Danny Woodhead has been rewarded for his breakout season with the Patriots with a contract extension through 2012, according to multiple media reports.

After stepping in for the injured Kevin Faulk, Woodhead has been everything the Patriots hoped for and more. Since being picked up from the Jets off waivers following Week 1, Woodhead has 56 carries for 312 yards with three touchdowns, including a spectacular 36-yard TD dash last week against the Colts.

According to the Boston Herald, which was first to report the story, Woodhead signed the contract last week that reportedly pays out a $425,000 signing bonus. He is making $395,000 this season.

The Herald also reports the 25-year-old out of tiny Chadron State in Nebraska will make $550,000 in 2011 and $700,000 in 2012. The deal includes play-time incentives worth a possible $575,000 next year and a possible $600,000 in 2012.

Read More: Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl
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