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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

11.05.13 at 6:15 am ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game after the first nine games of the 2013 season:

WR Julian Edelman: 49 catches on 74 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 31 catches on 65 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 23 catches on 55 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 23 catches on 37 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 19 catches on 32 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 17 catches on 23 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 9 catches on 13 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 9 catches on 10 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 7 catches on 10 targets
WR Austin Collie: 3 catches on 7 targets
FB James Develin: 2 catches on 2 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 1 catch on 6 targets
TE Matthew Mulligan: 1 catch on 1 target
TE Zach Sudfeld: 0 catches on 3 targets
RB LeGarrette Blount: 0 catches on 2 targets
RB Leon Washington: 0 catches on 1 target
TE/OL Nate Solder: 0 catches on 1 target

By position
Wide receiver: 130 catches on 244 targets
Running back/fullback: 35 catches on 48 targets
Tight end: 29 catches on 49 targets
Other: 0 catches on 1 target

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Steelers-Patriots sets record TV ratings in Boston market

11.04.13 at 5:08 pm ET
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The TV numbers for Sunday’s New England-Pittsburgh game were some of the best in recent history — according to the Patriots, the CBS telecast of the game enjoyed an average household rating of 40.3 in the Boston market, the highest rating of the 2013 season.

Since the regular season began in September, the only sporting event to receive higher ratings in the Boston market was Game 6 of the World Series. Sunday’€™s rating marks a 15 percent increase from this season’€™s previous high, a 35.1 average household rating in the team’€™s dramatic comeback win against the Saints in Week 6. It also marks the first time this season that a Patriots game has drawn ratings of 40 or higher in the Boston market.

The previous regular season ratings high against Pittsburgh was a Week 13 contest at home against the Steelers in 2007, which drew a 38.2 average household rating. This statistic excludes the team’€™s last contest against the Steelers in Week 10 of the 2011 season, when ratings were unavailable due to the power outages caused by inclement weather.

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Finally, ‘Full Gronk’ returns as Rob Gronkowski shows true form: ‘When we’re clicking, we’re clicking’

11.04.13 at 1:38 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski may have come back to the Patriots on Oct. 20 in New Jersey against the Jets. He may have played against the Dolphins on Oct. 27 at Gillette Stadium.

But on Sunday, nearly a full 12 months after breaking his left forearm on an extra point in a 59-28 win over the Colts, Patriots fans finally got to witness the return of the “Full Gronk” (TD spike above, and all) in another 50-point extravaganza at Gillette.

Gronkowski caught seven passes on the first seven times he was targeted by Tom Brady. One of those was his first touchdown catch of the season, a 19-yarder from Brady in the second quarter.

Gronkowski finished with a career high nine catches on 10 targets and 143 yards in the 55-31 laugher over the Steelers.

‘€œWhen we’€™re clicking, we’€™re clicking and it’€™s awesome. We’€™ve just got to keep working hard, keep improving, and keep doing things like that,” Gronkowski said afterward. “It takes a lot of work. Overall, together as an offense, it was a great team win. We were out there in a rhythm, but there’€™s a lot to improve on. We can get better as a whole. It felt good getting more games under me and I’€™m feeling good. [I’€™m getting] better every week.’€

What really made Sunday significant was the impact Gronkowski had on the other parts of the offense. His presence alone started to really open things up for other weapons for the first time, including fellow receivers Danny Amendola (four catches, 122 yards, TD) and Aaron Dobson (five catches, 130 yards, TD). Stevan Ridley chipped in with 26 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

‘€œThey had huge games and that’€™s what’€™s so great about working together as a team and working together as an offense,” Gronkowski said. “Everyone starts clicking and everyone’€™s contributing. The running backs; I think Ridley ran for over 100, Amendola and Dobson went for over 100 [yards], the offensive line was doing a great job blocking, and Brady was on point throwing the ball. It’€™s great when that’€™s happening and we’€™ve just got to keep on improving. Overall it was a great team win.’€

Now, Gronkowski and the rest of the Patriots nearly a full week to rest for their next game, Nov. 18 at Carolina.

‘€œEvery game’€™s important every week, but going into the bye week is definitely a big win,” Gronkowski said. “During the bye week now, we’€™ve got a lot of players banged up. That’€™s how it is throughout the NFL.”

There was only one scare Sunday. It came in the third quarter when Steelers safety Ryan Clark drilled Gronkowski in a tender spot and Gronkowski had to limp off. “He’s one of the hardest hitters in football and he got me in the groin, you know where,” Gronkowski said with a smile. Gronkowski was seen loosening the tender spot on the sidelines for several snaps before returning none the worse for wear.

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, Pittsburgh Steelers, Rob Gronkowski

Bill Belichick doesn’t think ‘anybody has lost any confidence’ in Kenbrell Thompkins

11.04.13 at 1:12 pm ET
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FOXBORO — More than a few eyebrows were raised Sunday when it was announced that Kenbrell Thompkins had been designated as inactive for Sunday’s game.

The rookie receiver had made huge strides and impressed many with his fast development in training camp and over the early part of the season as the offense tried to muddle through without Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski for significant stretches.

But since the game-winning catch against the Saints with five seconds remaining, Thompkins had become almost invisible in the offense. In the Jets game, he played 70 snaps but was targeted just five times with two catches for 16 yards. Against the Dolphins the following week, he played in just 13 snaps and was targeted just once. Sunday against Pittsburgh, he was a healthy scratch.

“I think KT is still making good progress and is working hard. I haven’€™t seen any letup in his effort level or trying to do things that he knows he needs to do,” Bill Belichick said Monday during a conference call. “I think he’€™ll continue to improve and help our football team. Just the way things went [Sunday] with our game plan and our opponent and a combination of factors, we felt that we activated the 46 players that we felt would give us the best chance to win. We’€™ll do that same thing every week. However that turns out, it will be a week-to-week decision for everybody. I don’€™t think anybody has lost any confidence in KT, I certainly haven’€™t. I think he’€™s made a lot of improvement this year. He continues to work hard and I think will continue to make it.”

Thompkins, the undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati, has 23 catches for 334 yards and four touchdowns, which still ranks him third among all Patriots receivers this season.

Another rookie, Aaron Dobson, appears to be quickly passing Thompkins on the depth chart. Sunday, he had five catches, including an acrobatic, spinning, back-shoulder TD grab in the fourth quarter. He finished with five catches on nine targets and 130 yards. He is second on the Patriots in receiving with 31 catches for 454 yards and four TDs.

“He’€™s definitely asked to run different types of patterns,” Belichick said. “Of course, even if you runt the same pattern, a lot of times it’€™s different because of the coverage the defense plays and the adjustment or the technique of beating the leverage of the coverage changes. I think Aaron has shown very steady improvement through the course of the season, works really hard, he’€™s on the field almost every day since the start of training camp.

“He’€™s very attentive in meetings and walkthroughs and in film and all that. You see him just keep getting better and better. It’€™s not perfect but it’€™s better than it was few weeks ago and a few weeks ago it was better than it was a few weeks before that. I think his hard work and dedication is paying off. He’€™s making plays and there are still probably more to be made. He’€™s really working hard and the results will follow.”

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Read More: Aaron Dobson, Bill Belichick, Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots

Chandler Jones on M&M: ‘I get a front-row seat to watch Tom Brady and this offense go to work’

11.04.13 at 1:09 pm ET
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Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones and cornerback Kyle Arrington joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to talk about Sunday’€™s 55-31 win over the Steelers.

Jones, Arrington and the rest of the Pats defense did not need to be at their best as New England’€™s Tom Brady-led offense erupted for 55 points and 610 total yards on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

‘€œI get a front row seat to watch Tom Brady and this offense go to work, and it’€™s fun,’€ Jones said.

Brady and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger dueled as both threw for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns.

‘€œ[Roethlisberger is] tremendous, it’€™s almost like playing that backyard streetball,’€ Arrington said.

Although the defense did not have its best showing of the season, it stepped up when necessary. The Pats forced three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) and sacked Roethlisberger five times. Rookie defensive back Duron Harmon and safety Devin McCourty registered the interceptions, while defensive tackle Joe Vellano recovered the fumble.

‘€œFourth quarter, I think we did a great job of finishing the game. Offense did a tremendous job of helping us out,’€ Arrington said. ‘€œIt was a great team effort yesterday.’€

The defensive line once again performed admirably, as Jones led the way with two sacks. Jones continues to thrive in a versatile role that puts him as a traditional defensive end at times, and as an outside linebacker as well.

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Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, chandler jones, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon

Adam Schefter on D&C: Dolphins OL Jonathan Martin ‘felt threatened, he felt harassed’ by teammate Richie Incognito

11.04.13 at 9:50 am ET
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ESPN’s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan to discuss the ongoing Jonathan Martin bullying saga with the Dolphins, and the health issues of a pair of NFL coaches.

Miami announced on Sunday the indefinite suspension of offensive lineman Richie Incognito for his role in the alleged bullying of Martin, the Dolphins’€™ second-year lineman.

Martin left the team for emotional reasons last week, before Miami’€™s 22-20 overtime win against the Bengals on Thursday. A voicemail left by Incognito on Martin’€™s phone was the smoking gun, according to Schefter.

‘€œThey went over the transcripts of one voicemail last night, and made the determination to suspend Richie Incognito immediately,’€ Schefter said, adding: ‘€œRichie Incognito is on the Dolphins’€™ leadership council. ‘€¦ It’€™s unbelievable to think that he wielded his powers the way that he did.’€

The reported trigger for Martin’€™s absence was a lunch room incident. According to ESPN, Incognito also approached Martin last summer to help fund a trip to Las Vegas with a group of Dolphins players. Martin donated $15,000 out of fear of retribution if he didn’t, but he never joined his teammates.

‘€œWe’€™ve seen in the NFL, veterans take rookies out and rookies picking up big dinner tabs and things of this sort,’€ Schefter said. ‘€œThis went above and beyond that. This was an example where Jonathan Martin felt threatened, he felt intimidated, he felt harassed.’€

It’€™s unknown when Martin will return to Miami, and how long Incognito’€™s suspension will last.

‘€œThe union is in a very difficult spot, because it is the union’s job to defend Richie Incognito,’€ Schefter said. ‘€œHowever, once the union gets a copy of this one particular voicemail, and the instances and text messages, the defense is going to be difficult to do.’€

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Read More: adam schefter, Ben Roethlisberger, Gary Kubiak, Jack Del Rio

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘Everything kind of worked out the way that we hoped it would’

11.04.13 at 8:42 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, following Sunday’s offensive explosion in a 55-31 victory over the Steelers.

The Patriots closed the game on a 35-7 run after squandering a 14-point halftime lead. The 55 points marks the most scored in the NFL this season and the most every scored against Pittsburgh, and New England’s 610 yards of total offense is the most ever allowed by the Steelers as well.

“It was just one of those days where everything kind of worked out the way that we hoped it would,” Brady said. “It really hasn’t gone like that all season for us. It was really a great time for it to happen. Hopefully we can gain some confidence, and going forward we can really understand we can be that type of team that can make big plays, that runs the ball well, that can chew up the clock, be a ball-possession team if we need it.

“We took advantage of some turnovers and really answered the call I thought in the third quarter when they tied it up 24-24 and we lost our momentum. It was a great way to finish the game.”

Added Brady: “To get to 7-2 at this point, it’s pretty cool. I know it hasn’t felt that way, we’ve been grinding our way out of these wins. But to be 7-2 at this point is pretty good.”

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, in his third game back following multiple offseason surgeries, had a career-high nine receptions for 143 yards and one touchdown.

“He’s one of the best players in the NFL,” Brady said. “We really haven’t had him for a long time, and we’ve learned to play without him. But it’s obvious, when he’s in there he adds a different element to what we’re trying to do. That’s why he’s such a good player.

“He worked really hard to get back to this point. After he’s got a few games under him and he’s got his football legs back, hopefully he can continue to do it. It was a big spark for us yesterday. He really came out making some really great plays on third down, some drive-starters where we got things going into the drive.

“He’s a tough matchup because of his quickness and his strength and his size. He’s tough to cover. And when the extra coverage goes to him, it means there’s less coverage on the other guys, which frees them up.”

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Read More: Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins, Rob Gronkowski

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