|12.23.14 at 12:01 am ET|
With the Patriots win over the Jets on Sunday night and the Broncos loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati, New England clinches the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the postseason. Here’s a look at their playoff seedings during the Bill Belichick era and how they’ve fared in the playoffs.
2000: No playoffs.
2001: No. 2 seed, won Super Bowl XXXVI.
2002: No playoffs.
2003: No. 1 seed, won Super Bowl XXXVIII.
2004: No. 2 seed, won Super Bowl XXXIX.
2005: No. 4 seed, lost divisional playoff in Denver.
2006: No. 4 seed, lost AFC title game in Indy.
2007: No. 1 seed, lost Super Bowl XLII.
2008: No playoffs.
2009: No. 3 seed, lost wild card game at home against Baltimore.
2010: No. 1 seed, lost divisional playoff at home against New York.
2011: No. 1 seed, lost Super Bowl XLIV.
2012: No. 2 seed, lost AFC title game at home against Baltimore.
2013: No. 2 seed, lost AFC title game in Denver.
2014: No. 1 seed.
Overall, the Patriots have had the No. 1 seed on four previous occasions ‘ they’ve won the Super Bowl once, lost a divisional playoff and come up just short in two Super Bowls. They’ve also had the No. 2 seed four times, and have won two Super Bowls (2001, 2004) and lost two AFC title games (2012, 2013).
|12.22.14 at 11:50 pm ET|
The Patriots can thank Dre Kirkpatrick and the Bengals for clinching the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Cincinnati defensive backs intercepted Peyton Manning four times, including a game-sealing pick-six by Kirkpatrick with under three minutes left, to lead the Bengals to a 37-28 win over the Broncos Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium. Manning, who had been 8-0 in his career against Cincinnati, was intercepted four times in a game for the sixth time in his career.
“I have to play better,” Manning said to reporters after being picked off four times for the first time since 2010.
The win means the Patriots will have home field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl, while the Bengals clinched a playoff berth for a fourth straight season. Cincinnati improved to 10-4-1 and will play Pittsburgh next Sunday night in Pittsburgh for the AFC North title. Denver had a chance to clinch a first-round bye with a win. Now, the Bengals could finish No. 2 and earn a bye if they beat the Steelers and the Broncos lose to the Raiders.
Another result of the Cincinnati win is that the Patriots will play the Bills at 1 p.m. Sunday at Gillette since that game has no playoff implications.
Andy Dalton spotted the Broncos an early 7-0 lead when he overthrew A.J. Green on a pass over the middle. The ball went off his outstretched hands and into the arms of former Patriot Aqib Talib. The cornerback fell to the ground to make the catch, got up and returned it 21 yards for a pick-6 and a Broncos lead. Green suffered an upper right arm injury on a hit from T.J. Ward, and was extremely limited and ineffective the rest of the game.
But from there, the Bengals defense dominated the rest of the first half. The Bengals held Manning off the scoreboard while scoring 20 straight points.
Rookie Jeremy Hill broke off an 85-yard run on the first play after Talib’s interception return and the Bengals added a Mike Nugent field goal and a short 2-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to Jermaine Gresham. The Bengals held a 20-7 halftime lead when Connor Barth missed a 49-yard field goal at the end of the half.
|12.22.14 at 4:14 pm ET|
Here’s what the national pundits were saying about the Patriots before and after their win over the Jets Sunday.
Deion Sanders on NFL Network after the game: “[The Patriots] offensively and defensively, are poised to win it all. They have the quarterback, they have the corners, they have a running game, they have a couple guys that can catch the ball … and there is no answer for [Rob] Gronkowski in the NFL.”
Rodney Harrison on NBC Sports after the game on possible concerns about the Patriots: “If I had one concern about the Patriots, it would be at the strong safety position, and maybe even at the linebacker position, covering tight ends down the field. Patrick Chung gave up a touchdown to an average tight end, and that’s been the theme the entire year.”
Tony Dungy on NBC Sports after the game on if the Jets provided a blueprint to beat the Patriots: “The blueprint is, if you can put the pressure on Tom Brady and rush. The Jets do it [with] creative rushes, and they make things uncomfortable.”
Shaun O’Hara on NFL Network before the game on if Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the greatest coach-quarterback combination in NFL history: “When you look at the way the game has changed now with free agency, with the salary cap implications [and] with the parity that goes on around the league, the fact that they’ve been able to win 12 [division titles] and the consistency that they’ve had up there, yeah absolutely I’ll say that they are.”
|12.22.14 at 3:52 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Despite the fact that if Cincinnati finds a way to beat Denver Monday night — which would clinch the top seed in the AFC for New England — a few of the Patriots said they don’t plan on spending too much time wrapped up in the Bengals-Broncos game.
“I don’t even think I’m watching the game tonight — I’ve actually got a birthday party I’ve got to get to,” confessed running back Brandon Bolden in the locker room Monday afternoon. “Nobody is really talking about it. Everybody is still trying to recover from the Jets game, the war we had yesterday, so I think everybody is going to take the rest of the day to try to just recover.
“If they watch football, they do. But I don’t think anybody is rooting for anybody.”
If Denver beats Cincinnati, that would mean New England’s regular-season finale against the Bills next Sunday at Gillette would still be in play as a meaningful contest as it relates to the playoff chase. As far as tight end Tim Wright is concerned, the focus on Buffalo is the bigger priority for the Patriots.
“It’s going to be a good game,” said Wright when asked about Bengals and Broncos. “[But] we’re not really looking past what has to go on with the Bills — what’s coming up next for us. But it’s going to be a good game for them.
“[We’re] just focused on the Bills.”
|12.22.14 at 3:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — With the Patriots trailing 13-7 with 6:39 left in the third quarter Sunday against the Jets, and only totaling 61 yards of total offense on their first seven drives, they needed a spark, something to ignite the offense.
The team went to a no-huddle offense on their eighth drive of the game with Shane Vereen at running back, Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright at tight end and Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola as wide receivers. The change up worked as the Patriots gained some momentum by going 81 yards in 13 plays before settling for a 24-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal, cutting the Jets lead to 13-10.
Even though the Patriots didn’t record a touchdown, the change of pace gained the offense some much needed momentum.
“I guess it did. Guys got into a rhythm,” Wright said on Monday. “We’ve got great players in the locker room, great players that can step in and get the job done. I guess once they got the confidence going, it got going well for us.”
On the following Jets possession, Jamie Collins picked off Geno Smith and then the Patriots continued to utilize the up-tempo offense on their eight play, 38-yard drive capped off by a Jonas Gray 1-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, which put the Patriots on top, 17-13.
On the two scoring drives in the second half where they primary went no-huddle, the Patriots totaled 119 yards. This is compared to the other nine drives in the game where they totaled only 112.
|12.22.14 at 3:05 pm ET|
The Patriots announced Monday the possibility of Sunday’s game being flexed to a later time because of the NFL’s flex scheduling.
If Denver beats Cincinnati on Monday night, Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game at Gillette Stadium would be moved to 4:25 p.m.. This is because Denver plays at 4:25 p.m. and the two games would have playoff implications. With a win the Patriots would clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but if the Patriots were to lose and Denver were to beat Oakland, Denver would earn the No. 1 seed.
If Cincinnati wins Monday night, the Patriots would clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC and Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game would remain a 1 p.m. game, as it would not have any playoff implications.
The Patriots are currently 12-3 and Denver 11-3, but because the Patriots beat the Broncos earlier in the year, they hold the tiebreaker.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|12.22.14 at 2:04 pm ET|
One of the immediate takeaways from Sunday’s game was the priority the Patriots put on rotating their offensive linemen in tackle-eligible formations. Left tackle Nate Solder covered Marcus Cannon in the first half and even switched over to the right side to cover Sebastian Vollmer on occasion.
On Monday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked when and how he decides when to use an extra offensive lineman as a tight end.
“Each week is a little different based on the matchups,” McDaniels said. “The Jets have a very good front, big guys on the edge plenty of the time, so you just look at what you can do to put your personnel in position to be successful so that you can run effective plays on offense. We’ve used different guys, obviously, throughout the course of the season.
“[Cameron] Fleming has done it. [Josh] Kline has done it. Obviously, Nate, Marcus has done it at times as well. We felt good about all our tackles that we put in the game, so when Marcus is in there, we have confidence in him, so when Nate goes to the tight end position and Marcus comes in at tackle, we feel like we’ve got good players at a lot of spots. Part of the game plan was to go ahead and do some of that yesterday. We had some mixed results, but some production from it as well.”
When running tackles in and out of the game, the no-huddle and hurry-up offensive formations take a back seat. But in the second half, McDaniels turned more up tempo with a good deal of success.
After the game, Tom Brady was asked why the team doesn’t use hurry-up more often throughout a game when they appear to have so much success with it.
“That’s a good question. I think there are definitely times we do a good job of it,” Brady said. “I don’t know. That’s a good question. We do it at different times and sometimes it works. I don’t know.”
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