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No-huddle numbers for Patriots through first half of 2013 season

10.30.13 at 6:15 am ET
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One of the defining characteristics of the Patriots offense the last two years has been its ability to play fast football. New England ran no-huddle on 24 percent of its snaps in the regular season over the course of the last two years. This year is a different story — through the first eight games in 2013, the Patriots have cut way back on their no-huddle approach, utilizing it on just 86 of their 562 plays from scrimmage, a rate of 15 percent. Here’s a breakdown from each one of the first eight games, as well as a per-game percentage:

Bills — 8 of 89 snaps — 9 percent
Jets — 5 of 64 snaps — 8 percent
Bucs — 4 of 72 snaps — 6 percent
Falcons — 0 of 62 snaps — 0 percent
Bengals — 0 of 60 snaps — 0 percent
Saints — 44 of 83 snaps — 53 percent
Jets — 11 of 70 snaps — 16 percent
Dolphins — 14 of 62 snaps — 23 percent

Taking a look at negative numbers for Patriots offense through first half of 2013 season

10.29.13 at 10:05 pm ET
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Avoiding negative plays is always a point of emphasis for the New England offense — several players spoke about it as a main focus following Sunday’s win over the Dolphins. To this point in the season, the Patriots have run 562 offensive plays (according to NFL game books), and not counting end-of-half kneeldowns from quarterback Tom Brady, 44 of the plays have gone for negative yardage, a rate of 8 percent. (That includes the 23 sacks taken by Brady.) Here’s a breakdown from each one of the first eight games, as well as a per-game percentage:

Bills — 4 negative plays on 89 snaps — 4 percent
Jets — 6 negative plays on 64 snaps — 9 percent
Bucs — 5 negative plays on 72 snaps — 7 percent
Falcons — 3 negative plays on 62 snaps — 5 percent
Bengals — 5 negative plays on 60 snaps — 8 percent
Saints — 10 negative plays on 83 snaps — 12 percent
Jets — 5 negative plays on 70 snaps — 7 percent
Dolphins — 6 negative plays on 62 snaps — 10 percent

Rob Gronkowski and family reportedly pitching animated TV show

10.29.13 at 9:04 pm ET
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The Gronkowski family is apparently set to pitch a animated show loosely based on their lives. Deadspin initially got a hold of the trailer — they have more details on the project — but you can take a look at it for yourself here. (Warning: There’s some mildly NSFW content.)

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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

10.29.13 at 7:45 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Eight weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2013:

RB Stevan Ridley: 98 (92 rushes, 6 catches), 8 negative rushes, 1 negative reception, 1 fumble lost
RB LeGarrette Blount: 65 (65 rushes, 0 catches), 8 negative runs, 1 fumble lost
RB Brandon Bolden: 52 (35 rushes, 17 catches), 3 negative runs, 1 negative reception
WR Julian Edelman: 50 (2 rushes, 48 catches), 5 dropped passes
WR Aaron Dobson: 26 (0 rushes, 26 catches), 1 negative reception, 6 dropped passes
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 23 (0 rushes, 23 catches), 7 dropped passes
QB Tom Brady: 23 (23 rushes, 0 catches), 22 sacks, 13 kneeldowns, 2 fumbles lost
RB Shane Vereen: 21 (14 rushes, 7 catches)
WR Danny Amendola: 20 (1 rush, 19 catches), 1 negative reception
TE Rob Gronkowski: 10 (0 rushes, 10 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 8 (0 rushes, 8 catches)
WR Austin Collie: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches)
FB James Develin: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Leon Washington: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)
TE Matthew Mulligan: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
WR Josh Boyce: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)

Some offensive notes: The Patriots ran 62 plays on Sunday against the Dolphins and 11 of them were in shotgun, a rate of 18 percent, a season-low for shotgun totals for New England. To this point in the season, the Patriots have been in shotgun formation on 245 of their 562 offensive snaps, a rate of 44 percent. (Last year through eight games, the Patriots were in the shotgun for 314 of their 638 plays, a rate of 49 percent.) ‘€¦ Against the Dolphins, the Patriots were in no-huddle for 14 of their 62 snaps, a rate of 23 percent. On the year, the Patriots have operated in a no-huddle on 86 of their 562 plays from scrimmage ‘€” 15 percent of the time. ‘€¦ New England has run 562 offensive plays this year in eight games. Not counting kneeldowns, 44 have been for negative yardage. Of the 62 plays on Sunday against the Dolphins, six went for negative yardage ‘€” three sacks of Brady, as well as two negative plays from Blount and one from Bolden. ‘€¦ The 17 points the Patriots scored in the third quarter against Miami on Sunday tied a season-high for points in a quarter from New England — the Patriots had 17 in the second quarter of their 23-3 win over the Bucs on Sept. 22, as well as 17 points in the fourth quarter of their 30-23 win over the Falcons on Sept. 29. ‘€¦ Conversely, the three points they had in the first half against the Dolphins tied a season-low for points in a half, matching the three-point “outburst” they had in the first half of the Oct. 6 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati. ‘€¦ Dobson is on pace for 52 catches, while Thompkins is on pace for 46. Both would be tops for a rookie wide receiver under Brady. Deion Branch had 43 catches in 2002, while Edelman had 37 in 2009. (For what it’s worth, Aaron Hernandez had 45 catches and Gronkowski had 42 catches in their rookie season of 2010.)

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the offensive opportunities for the Patriots through the first eight games of 2012.

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Patriots place Sebastian Vollmer on season-ending injured reserve

10.29.13 at 6:18 pm ET
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The Patriots placed Sebastian Vollmer on injured reserve Tuesday, which means the 2013 season has come to an end for the right tackle. Vollmer suffered a right leg injury in the first half of Sunday’s win over the Dolphins, and was replaced in the lineup by Marcus Cannon. He underwent surgery on the leg early this week.

Vollmer becomes the third high-profile member of the Patriots to land on season-ending injured reserve — defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo were lost to injury earlier in the year.

The 29-year-old Vollmer, a second-round pick out of Houston in 2009, has been a starter for the Patriots since he arrived as a rookie — the 6-foot-8, 320-pound German has played in 59 of a possible 72 games with New England. A free agent this past offseason. he signed a four-year, $17 million deal to return to the Patriots, and was playing some of the best football of his career before the injury — Pro Football Focus had him graded as the second-best right tackle over the first eight games of the 2013 season.

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Analysis: What does the trade for Isaac Sopoaga mean for Patriots?

10.29.13 at 4:24 pm ET
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The acquisition of defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga fills a glaring void in the middle of New England’s run defense that had been a problem since Vince Wilfork went down last month with an Achilles injury.

A 6-foot-2, 330-pound run stuffer in the Wilfork mold, the 32-year-old Sopoaga projects to be the man in the middle for the Patriots when it comes to stopping the run. The Hawaii product, who is in his 10th season in the league, is a big body whose speciality is clogging up the middle and occupying double teams. The 32-year-old, who has played with the 49ers (2004-2012) and Eagles (2013), has played some defensive tackle and nose tackle in his career. He has 226 career tackles and seven career sacks. (He’s also played a little fullback, lining up in the backfield for a couple of plays last year for the Niners.)

Considered a 3-4 nose tackle, Sopoaga figures to take some of the workload off youngsters Chris Jones and Joe Vellano, who had stepped up and played well in the wake of the injuries to Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, but now figure to work more in rotational situations (particularly Jones, who has shown a real nice ability to get after the passer). It wouldn’t be a surprise to see New England run more 3-4, at least until Kelly returns on a regular basis, with Sopoaga occupying the nose and Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones at the defensive end spots.

The Patriots were extremely stout against the run over the first month-plus of the season — through the first four games, New England was 13th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game, yielding an average of 105 yards per game on the ground. But over the last four weeks, they’ve given up 646 total rush yards to the Bengals, Saints, Jets and Dolphins — an average of 156.5 yards per game. Going into this weekend’s game against the Steelers, the Patriots are allowing 130.8 rushing yards per game, 31st in the league.

Financially, the Patriots aren’t taking a big hit, at least for 2013. Sopoaga signed 3-year deal with Eagles this year which called for him to make base salaries of $1 million in 2013, $3.75 million in 2014 and $3.5 million in 2015. (Those numbers could be adjusted down the road depending on how he takes to the New England system this year.) And the prospect of getting him for a draft pick smells of a relatively no-risk situation for the Patriots.

It marks the second consecutive year the Patriots pulled off a deadline deal — last year, New England acquired Aqib Talib at the deadline, and the cornerback has done a lot to transform the way the Patriots have played defense over the last year. If Sopoaga can come in and have even half the sort of impact defensively that Talib has shown over the last 12 months, New England will be very happy.

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Patriots acquire defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga for draft pick

10.29.13 at 3:57 pm ET
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For the second consecutive year, the Patriots have swung a trade deadline deal, this time acquiring defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga from the Eagles.

Sopoaga is a 6-foot-2, 330-pounder out of Hawaii in his 10th season in the league. The 32-year-old, who has played with the 49ers (2004-2012) and Eagles (2013), has 226 career tackles and seven career sacks. Considered a 3-4 nose tackle, Sopoaga will relieve some of the burden that has fallen on youngsters Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, who had to play serious minutes after Vince Wilfork went down with a season-ending Achilles injury last month against the Falcons.

In all, the Eagles sent Sopoaga and a sixth-round pick to Patriots in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick.

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