|09.14.08 at 7:45 pm ET|
Our own Michael Felger, advancing his upcoming report card, talks with WEEI.com’s Alex Speier about Sunday’s 19-10 win in the Meadowlands over the New York Jets.
|09.14.08 at 5:10 pm ET|
The first start of Matt Cassel’s NFL career produced a 19-10 win over the New York Jets at the Meadowlands. The Patriots extended their NFL record regular season winning streak to 21 games. Here are five reasons why:
1. Matt Cassel took care of the ball. Even though he took three quick sacks in the third quarter, Cassel didn’t panic under pressure. He didn’t throw a touchdown in the game but he also didn’t throw a pick as he went 16-for-23 for 165 yards.
2. Brett Favre DID throw an interception. On the first possession of the second half, Favre was picked off by Brandon Meriweather. The Patriots turned it into a one-yard Sammy Morris touchdown plunge, as the Patriots went up 13-3. Favre was held to one touchdown and just 181 yards.
3. Stephen Gostkowski was huge, and so were his kick-offs. In addition to hitting on all four field goal attempts, the Patriots big foot drilled all six of his kickoffs into the end zone, with only one being returned. Two were booted entirely out of the end zone. Bill Belichick has always stressed winning field position, and thanks to Gostkowski, they did on Sunday.
4. The relentless pressure of the defense on Favre. Nothing symbolized this more than the Adalius Thomas manhandling of Favre on the next-to-last play the Jets ran in the game. Thomas overpowered Leon Washington to get to Favre.
5. Kris Jenkins helped disrupt the line in the third quarter but other than that the offensive line did their job in providing running lanes for Lamont Jordan, Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney, who along with Morris, Cassel and Heath Evans combined to run the ball 33 times for 104 yards.
|09.12.08 at 6:53 pm ET|
What it will take for the Brady-less Patriots to overcome the Brett-full Jets this weekend at the Meadowlands? Pay attention and take notes…
1. Make life as easy as humanly possible on Matt Cassel. It’s one thing to replace one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL in the middle of a game when your adrenaline is pumping. It’s quite another to have an entire week to think about it and make your NFL debut on the road in New York/New Jersey against the team’s biggest rival.
2. To continue point No. 1, get Laurence Maroney/Sammy Morris/Kevin Faulk going. There’s no better way to keep the pressure off Cassel than handing the ball off. Maroney and Morris combined for 20 carries and 104 yards against the Chiefs. This week, Kevin Faulk returns from a one-game substance abuse suspension and could be a big factor on third down, serving his typical role picking up the blitz and releasing to catch the swing pass.
3. in the words of Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees-Be Patient. The Patriots cannot afford, under any circumstances, to panic when Brett Favre hits on a big play or two. Pees and Bill Belichick have preached this week to not guess on where Favre is going with his passes because he’s one of the best in the game at looking off receivers. The Patriots, with many of the same personnel, made that point moot in November 2006 when they knocked Favre out of the game and beat Green Bay, 35-0, at Lambeau Field.
4. Come up with another key big play on special teams. Last week, it was Ellis Hobbs who returned a kickoff 51 yards after Kansas City’s first touchdown to take some pressure off the defense. Last year, on opening day against the Jets, it was Hobbs who returned the second-half kickoff an NFL record 108 yards to put the Pats on their way to a 38-14 rout.
5. Win the trenches. The Jets have remade their roster on both lines of scrimmage and there’s a simple reason for that. They all had TVs, most likely HDTVs, and were watching Super Bowl XLII, and the several games leading up that game in which teams tried and eventually succeeded in beating the Patriots on the line. So the Jets went out and obtained perennial pro bowl guard Alan Faneca (free agent-Pittsburgh) and Damian Woody (free agent-Detroit), who was moved from center to right guard. Meanwhile, the big, and I do mean that literally, Kris Jenkins anchors the middle of the defensive line at 6-foot-4, 349 pounds. Control him and you have a chance. Don’t and Cassel gets a horizontal view of the game.
Dean Pees on Brett Favre: “The word I use the most with the secondary this week is be ‘patient.’ Just play your responsibility, be patient because about the time you think he’s looking over there, he’s going to sling one over here. To me patience is a big virtue in the secondary this week with this guy.”
Rodney Harrison on Favre: “He’s going to continue to pull out things that have worked out for him in the past plus new stuff. It’s just a matter of us going out there and executing our game plan and not giving up big plays.”
Tedy Bruschi on improvement of Jets offensive line with additions of Damian Woody and Alan Faneca: “They’re better based on what I’ve seen, what I’ve seen this year on film. When you add a guy like Faneca at guard, us middle linebackers will be seeing him a lot. We’re familar with Woody also. These guys have been in the league a long time and there’s a reason why. They’ve been playing well as a unit and I think our front seven, as a unit, are going to have our hands full.”
|09.11.08 at 10:02 am ET|
On what he learned from a speech during training camp from Jeff Hostetler to the team: “It’s always interesting to hear older players come back and talk. But in particular it was very encouraging and interesting to hear Jeff come and speak to the team. I actually got a chance to meet him after the practice. His situation was actually very similar to mine. He went in and the New York Giants were (11-3) and (Phil) Simms goes down (with broken foot) and nobody’s ever heard of Jeff and he goes and leads them to the Super Bowl. It’s happened throughout the history of the NFL, and I’m not predicting anything, I’m just saying people can be successful although they may not be well known.”
On his popularity:”I definitely became a lot more popular after Sunday’s game, there’s no doubt about that. I think I had around 150 text messages, and half the numbers I don’t even know.”
On his focus for Sunday:”Once you get the field, it’s actually business as usual. It’s more of the outside distractions that if you let become a distraction will become distraction. So, for me, it’s just go play ball as usual and try to have fun, realize it’s a game, it’s a fun game and you’ve been doing it for a long time and go out there and enjoy it.”
On outside distractions and demands on his time:”It’s really just a focus on football. There’s going to be a lot of outside distractions, there’s going to be a lot of people that want your time right now and really just focus on what’s important and that’s to help this team win.”
On waiting four years for his first NFL start after not starting for five years at USC: “It really hasn’t been that big of struggle for me. It’s just going, get your work done, and get ready when that opportunity comes and it’s here now. Did I think it would take as long as it did? No but at the same time I went and got a great education at USC, I had a great experience there and then I came here I’ve learned behind the best for the last four years. All in all, it’s not that bad.”
|09.11.08 at 7:35 am ET|
Okay… Let me preface this by saying I’m privileged to be doing what I do for a living everyday.
And let me also say there are construction workers, coal miners, fisherman and countless others who have it much harder than me but I will say today that I’m feeling it a little after two trip-to-the-dentist type of games over the last two nights at Fenway.
And actually, last night’s 14-inning, 5-hour, 2-minute marathon was really not that bad compared to the 3-hour, 40-minute NINE INNING GAME the night before.
So, your trusty reporter got home late last night, and got up this morning to head back to Gillette, where we are now, waiting for Matt Cassel to talk for the first time since leading the troops to a 17-10 win on opening day.
But that is a distant memory now with the New York Bretts on tap for Sunday at 4:15 in Bruce’s backyard.
When he speaks, we’ll have the details on WEEI.com.
|09.10.08 at 10:52 am ET|
This week it’s simple… “Do your job.”
And you can read into that… “and don’t try to do someone else’s.”
Another theme developing is that of the challenge everyone is looking forward to in facing the new-look Jets with Brett Favre at the helm.
“I love going out there and saying that I competed with the best and then that I did the best I could and then that I had a good day out there,” Hobbs said on Wednesday. “I know I welcome the challenge and I know he welcoming it also.”
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Thomas added.
Hobbs was on the Patriots team that, on Nov. 19, 2006, nearly ended Favre’s NFL record starting streak (now at 254 games) when they knocked him out of a 35-0 rout of the Pack at Lambeau Field.
While Favre is grabbing all the headlines and held a conference call with the New England media Wednesday morning to discuss playing the Brady-less Patriots, there’s another addition that may be as important, if not more so than No. 4.
Albert Breer has an interesting take on Kris Jenkins, a 6-4, 349-lb defensive tackle who is among the best run-stoppers in the NFL.
Quick takes: “Felt bad for him. It was a freak injury that could happen to anyone, to a guy that’s been that steady and consistent for a long time. He called me last year when I broke the (all-time) touchdown record and congratulated me. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and what’s he done.” — Favre on sympathy for Brady.
“I know people think, ‘Tom’s down, wow, this team is in trouble’ It’s the same thing when Bledsoe (was injured in 2001). That was really my professional reaction. It’s a shame. It’s unfortunate. They’ll be fine, they’ve always been fine. And even when he comes back, he’ll be as good as ever.” — Favre on those writing off the Patriots this season.
|09.09.08 at 8:43 pm ET|
Sometimes timing can be a funny thing in our business. I had the chance to speak with San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith last week for a piece for “San Diego Sport” Magazine.
“With Shawne, we all know the situation,” Smith told me. “Shawne’s a great player and he’s an intergral part of our success, there’s no doubt. He’s been a major part of our success. He had a tough decision to make here and he made it and he’s going to try and go and help this football team. We obviously hope that everything works out for him and us and that’s the way we’re looking at it. He weighed a lot of things and made some decisions and we’re just hoping for the best.”
Then he went out and played Sunday against Carolina and one game was enough to change his mind.
“Shawne informed me he did not feel right and thought it best to shut it down,” Smith said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “The road to winning the AFC West just got more difficult, but not impossible. Nothing is impossible. Shawne is a great player and an inspirational leader. He will be missed. We wish him a successful surgery and a speedy recovery.”
So, each team will be without at least one superstar when they meet on Sunday night, Oct. 12 in San Diego. It’s just the Patriots don’t have to worry about a dance at midfield.
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