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What pundits were saying about Patriots on Sunday

11.04.13 at 3:00 am ET
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Here’€™s a quick rundown of what some NFL analysts were saying about the Patriots before and after Sunday’€™s game against the Steelers.

Tony Dungy on NBC’s “Football Night in America” following the game: ‘€œThis New England offense has been very, very mediocre for three weeks, and they looked like world-beaters today.’€

T.J. Houshmandzadeh on Tom Brady and the Patriots offense on the NFL Network before the game: ‘€œIt’€™s up to the Kenbrell Thompkins and the Aaron Dobsons of the world to make it easy on Tom Brady. Make him trust you. ‘€¦ [Rob] Gronkowski comes back and he’€™s forcing the ball to him because he does not trust those wide receivers. They’€™re not being where they’€™re supposed to be, they’€™re not creating enough separation.’€

Kurt Warner on Brady on the NFL Network before the game: ‘€œI believe everything that’€™s gone on around Tom Brady has made him change the way he plays the game; he’€™s second-guessing himself, he’€™s second-guessing what he’€™s seeing — he’€™s second-guessing whether he can throw it to certain guys, and how to throw it and when to throw it. All of that is making me worry about him. I’€™ve never seen Tom Brady play like this.’€

Read More: Kurt Warner, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Tom Brady, Tony Dungy

Snap Judgments: Patriots crush Steelers, 55-31

11.03.13 at 7:57 pm ET
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FOXBORO — That’s how you head into the bye week.

The Patriots put up 55 points — more than any team has ever scored on a Steelers defense — on the way to a 55-31 victory over Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. While it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing game to defensive aficionados, it was plenty good enough for New England football fans, as the Patriots now head into their week off with a 7-2 mark.

Tom Brady ended up with season highs in several categories — he finished 23-for-33 for 432 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was his fifth career 400-yard game. Stevan Ridley had a banner afternoon — against one of the worst run defenses in the league, he accumulated 115 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. (The Patriots are now 6-0 when they top 100 yards rushing.) In addition, Rob Gronkowski had 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown, Aaron Dobson had nine catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns and Danny Amendola ended up with four catches for 122 yards.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Steelers were led by Ben Roethlisberger, who went 28-for-48 for 400 yards for four touchdowns and two interceptions. Emmanuel Sanders — the receiver who nearly became a Patriot after New England signed him to an offer sheet, only to see him return to Pittsburgh — ended up with 11 catches for 98 yards.

Here are a few notes on how things went down:

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE PATRIOTS Read the rest of this entry »

Halftime analysis: Patriots 24, Steelers 10

11.03.13 at 5:58 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Two quarters are in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots hold a 24-10 lead on the Steelers. Here are a few quick notes:

‘€¢ The big connection for the Patriots has been Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. The big tight end accounted for 110 of Brady’s first 161 yards through the air, and the two hooked up on a second-quarter touchdown pass that gave New England a 14-0 lead. Gronkowski has eight catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Danny Amendola (91 yards on two catches) also had a big first half for New England. On the other side of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger is 11-for-15 for 173 yards, and had his best throw of the first half at the end of the second quarter when he connected with Antonio Brown on a 27-yard touchdown pass.

‘€¢ The Patriots opened up in a 3-4 on defense, with newcomer Isaac Sopoaga over the nose and Chris Jones and Joe Vellano at defensive ends; Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich were at outside linebacker/edge-of-the-line players. (New England also flashed a look with Andre Carter in for Sopaga, a scheme that saw Chris Jones move to the nose.) Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower were the two inside linebackers. In the secondary, it was Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard at corner (Logan Ryan rotated in as the nickel corner), and Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory at safety.

‘€¢ The two highlights of the first half defensively for New England came on takeaways. First, there was a third-down play at the end of Pittsburgh’s first drive. Ninkovich sacked Roethlisberger and knocked the ball loose. Vellano came away with the ball. New England couldn’t do anything with the takeaway, but it marked the 36th consecutive game where the Patriots registered a takeaway, the longest active streak in the league. And second, McCourty pulled down a wounded duck from Roethlisberger late in the first quarter and took it back to the Steelers 34.

‘€¢ Pittsburgh eventually got on the board midway through the second quarter when Roethlisberger put together a seven-play, 68-yard drive — highlighted by a 42-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders — that ended with a 30-yard field goal from Shaun Suisham. They added to that with 1:55 left in the second quarter when Roethlsiberger hit Brown on a sweet 27-yarder over the top of Alfonzo Dennard to make it 17-10. It was the 200th touchdown pass of Roethlisberger’s career.

‘€¢ The Patriots put together their best and most complete offensive series late in the first quarter, but couldn’t punch it in for a touchdown. Brady and Co. engineered an 11-play sequence, with the two big connections coming on passes to Gronkowski — first, there was a 34-yard pickup that allowed New England to convert in a 3rd and long situation. That was followed up with a 27-yarder to Gronk that got the Patriots into the Pittsburgh red zone. The Patriots couldn’t convert when the Steelers stepped up on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line.

‘€¢ That inability to convert was rendered moot when the Patriots struck like a thunderbolt later in the first half. Following the McCourty pick, Brady hit Amendola for a 34-yard touchdown strike on a play where Amendola was so wide open, it appeared he might have materialized right out of thin air. Seriously: no one was within at least 10 yards of Amendola when he caught the ball and cruised into the end zone untouched to make it 7-0. They piled on shortly after that with their first touchdown of the second quarter — a six-play, 67-yard drive was capped off by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Gronkowski to make it 14-0 with 10:30 left in the second quarter. And they got more points at the end of the first half when Stevan Ridley banged one home from one yard out with 10 seconds left in the second quarter to make it 24-10.

‘€¢ Amendola had another Houdini moment on a 57-yard pass play toward the end of the first half, a connection that set up a 20-yard field goal with 3:51 left in the second quarter.

‘€¢ There were no injuries to report over the first half.

Patriots honor World Series champion Red Sox before game with Steelers

11.03.13 at 4:38 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The World Series champion Red Sox and their latest jewel – the World Series trophy – made an appearance at Gillette Stadium before the Patriots game against the Steelers.

Following the introduction of the Patriots through the tunnel, Red Sox owner John Henry led out his world champions. Among those coming out in blue No. 1 Patriots jerseys were third base coach and huge Patriots fan Brian Butterfield, Clay Buchholz, David Ross, Will Middlebrooks, John McDonald, Shane Victorino and Jon Lester, who was carrying the trophy.

Before Lester and the trophy, the highlight of the introductions was Jonny Gomes running onto the field in his bright red boots.

Lester and the trophy were designated the honorary captains and came out with Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Logan Mankins and Rob Ninkovich.

Read More: 2013 World Series, Boston Red Sox, John Henry, Jon Lester

Inactive analysis: Kenbrell Thompkins, Aqib Talib on shelf for Steelers game

11.03.13 at 3:20 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots have announced the following players as being out for Sunday’s game against the Steelers. Here’s the list of who will be sitting and what it means going forward:

Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins: The biggest surprise of the group — it appears that the rookie has slipped down the depth chart over the last few weeks. Austin Collie has seen a dramatic uptick in snaps over the last two weeks — there’s likely a connection there.

Running back/returner Leon Washington: The veteran practiced all week, but has been dogged by ankle and thigh problems for the duration of the season. The belief is that apparently two more weeks — this week and the bye — should be enough to allow him to get back to action following the bye week.

Cornerback Aqib Talib: The veteran was limited all week and was listed as questionable (hip) on Friday’s injury report. Like Washington, the thinking is that extra two weeks of rest will do him some good — the Patriots face some elite offenses following the bye. Today will mark the third straight inactive game for Talib.

Linebacker Steve Beauharnais: The rookie seventh-rounder out of Rutgers has now been a healthy scratch for five games this season.

Wide receiver Josh Boyce: The rookie receiver appears to be on the way to a redshirt season — he’s played just 56 snaps over the course of the first eight games per Pro Football Focus, and has just one catch in that stretch.

Offensive lineman Chris Barker: The young offensive lineman is still in the developmental stages of his career, and like Boyce, apparently headed for a redshirt year.

Defensive end Jake Bequette: With the acquisition of veteran defensive end Andre Carter, Bequette is now the odd man out, at least at this point.

Setting the scene: Patriots host Steelers at chilly Gillette Stadium

11.03.13 at 1:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With the turning back of the clocks and the turning of the calendar to November comes the chilling weather that is customary with Patriots home football games in the second half of the season.

Clear skies and temperatures in the low 40s are expected for the 4:25 p.m. kickoff with the Steelers. A 10 MPH breeze out of the north will make it feel like freezing by halftime.

There will be a special pre-game ceremony to honor the World Series champion Red Sox, with several players, coaches and team staff and management expected to attend, with their third World Series trophy in nine years in tow.

The Patriots are attempting to head into their bye week with a 7-2 record by taking on a 2-5 Steelers team that is in the midst of their worst start to a season since the 1988 team opened 1-6 and 2-10.

The Patriots are entering the portion of the schedule they have mastered over the last 2010. They are a combined 23-1 in the second half of the regular season. In 2010 and 2011, they were 8-0 while they were 7-1 last season, with the only loss coming to 49ers on Sunday night football.

The Patriots are also an NFL-best 35-13 (.729) in the month of November since 2001.

New nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga is expected to make his debut at nose tackle. The 6-foot-2, 330-pound nose tackle was acquired in a deadline day trade on Tuesday from the Eagles, and with Tommy Kelly going on season-ending injured reserve on Saturday with a knee injury, Sopoaga’s presence is expected to be that much more important going forward.

Sopoaga’s addition is expected to be a boost to a run defense that is currently struggling to stop anyone. The Patriots enter the game ranked 31st in the NFL in stopping the run, allowing 130.8 yards per game while they are allowing just 215.5 yards per game through the air, good for fifth best in the NFL.

But the Patriots are having troubles of their own passing the ball. They are averaging just 209.4 yards through the air through the first half of the season, which ranks 23rd.

Tom Brady is having his least productive passing season since 2006. Brady is completing just 55.7 percent of his passes, has thrown nine touchdown passes and has been intercepted six times. His quarterback rating is 74.9, 21 points below his career average.

The Steelers lead the all-time series, 14-8 in the regular season, including a 25-17 win over New England on Oct. 30, 2011 at Heinz Field. The two teams haven’t met at Gillette Stadium since the Steelers beat Matt Cassel and the Patriots, 33-10, on Nov. 30, 2008.

Read More: Isaac Sopoaga, New England Patriots, nfl, Pittsburgh Steelers

Fantasy Football live chat: Helping set lineups for Week 9, 11 a.m.

11.03.13 at 9:37 am ET
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Join WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com fantasy football expert Pete Davidson for a live chat, helping you set your lineup for Week 9. All the fun starts at 11 a.m. Get your questions in now …

 

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