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Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2012 season

12.24.12 at 1:53 pm ET
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Through 15 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 91 penalties (25th in the league) for a total of 792 yards (21st in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
Team: Seven penalties (illegal formation, two illegal shift, illegal block above the waist, defensive holding, two 12 men on the field), 36 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: six penalties (three encroachment, defensive offsides, facemask, unnecessary roughness), 49 yards
LB Jerod Mayo: five penalties (two defensive pass interference, unnecessary roughness, illegal contact, roughing the passer) 43 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: five penalties (two defensive holding, unnecessary roughness, roughing the passer, encroachment), 41 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: four penalties (three defensive pass interference, defensive holding), 65 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: four penalties (two offensive holding, false start, offensive pass interference), 35 yards
TE Aaron Hernandez: four penalties (two offensive pass interference, false start, illegal motion), 30 yards
S Pat Chung: three penalties (facemask, defensive pass interference, unnecessary roughness), 70 yards
CB Devin McCourty: three penalties (defensive holding, two defensive pass interference), 51 yards
OL Donald Thomas: three penalties (false start, two offensive holding), 25 yards
CB Alfonzo Dennard: three penalties (defensive holding, two unnecessary roughness), 21 yards
OT Sebastian Vollmer: three penalties (illegal formation, false start, offensive holding), 20 yards
TE Daniel Fells: three penalties (false start, offensive pass interference, offensive holding), 18 yards
DE Chandler Jones: three penalties (encroachment, two defensive offsides) 15 yards
G Logan Mankins: three penalties (two false starts, low block), 13 yards
CB Aqib Talib: two penalties (two defensive pass interference), 49 yards
QB Tom Brady: two penalties (two intentional grounding), 19 yards
CB Ras-I Dowling: two penalties (defensive pass interference, defensive holding), 19 yards
WR Julian Edelman: two penalties (false start, offensive pass interference), 15 yards
OT Nate Solder: two penalties (offensive holding, false start), 15 yards
ST Nate Ebner: two penalties (false start, offensive holding), 15 yards
ST Niko Koutouvides: two penalties (defensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 14 yards
DL Jermaine Cunningham: two penalties (encroachment, defensive holding), 10 yards
RB Stevan Ridley: two penalties (false start, chop block), 5 yards
S Steve Gregory: one penalty (personal foul), 15 yards
ST Mike Rivera: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
OL Dan Connolly: one penalty (holding) 10 yards
WR Brandon Lloyd: one penalty (offensive pass interference), 10 yards
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: one penalty (defensive holding), 10 yards
C Ryan Wendell: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
S Tavon Wilson: one penalty (offensive holding’€“punt return team), 10 yards
ST Marquice Cole: one penalty (offensive holding), 7 yards
LS Danny Aiken: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
ST Matthew Slater: one penalty (offsides on free kick), 5 yards
DE Trevor Scott: one penalty (neutral zone infraction), 5 yards
DL Jake Bequette: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards
ST James Develin: one penalty (offensive holding), 3 yards
DE Rob Ninkovich: one penalty (encroachment) 3 yards
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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

12.24.12 at 1:37 pm ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains an 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 through the first 15 games of the 2012 regular season:

WR Wes Welker: 110 catches on 163 targets
WR Brandon Lloyd: 73 catches on 126 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 53 catches on 75 targets
TE Aaron Hernandez: 46 catches on 75 targets
RB Danny Woodhead: 35 catches on 50 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 21 catches on 32 targets
WR Deion Branch: 15 catches on 28 targets
RB Shane Vereen: Eight catches on 13 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: Six catches on 14 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: Five catches on six targets
TE Daniel Fells: Four catches on 10 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: Two catches on two targets
TE Kellen Winslow: One catch on two targets
WR Donte’€™ Stallworth: One catch on two targets
TE Visanthe Shiancoe: Zero catches on one target
TOTALS: 380 catches on 599 targets

By position
Wide receiver: 220 catches on 351 targets
Tight end: 109 catches on 169 targets
Running back: 51 catches on 79 targets

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Pressure Points: Which Pats defenders have done best job getting after QB in 2012?

12.24.12 at 1:16 pm ET
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Through 15 games, the Patriots have 58 quarterback hits and 30 sacks as a team (tied for 22nd in the league). Based on gamebooks, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2012 season:

Quarterback hits
DE Rob Ninkovich: 12
DE Chandler Jones: 10
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: Eight
DE Jermaine Cunningham: Six
LB Jerod Mayo: Five
DL Justin Francis: Four
LB Brandon Spikes: Four
DE Trevor Scott: Four
DL Vince Wilfork: Two
DL Brandon Deaderick: One
DL Kyle Love: One
CB Kyle Arrington: One

Ninkovich: 8.5 (51 yards)
Jones: 6 (33 yards)
Hightower: 4 (21 yards)
Mayo: 3 (24 yards)
Cunningham: 2.5 (21 yards)
Scott: 2.5 (4 yards)
Wilfork: 2 (30 yards)
Love: 1.5 (4 yards)

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Vince Wilfork proves he always has the back of his teammates

12.23.12 at 6:10 pm ET
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On a day that Tom Brady blasted his own performance and that of his offensive teammates, another Patriots captain – Vince Wilfork -also had a defining moment of leadership.

Late in the fourth quarter, and the Jaguars threatening to tie the game, Chandler Jones hit Chad Henne on fourth-and-goal from the Patriots 10. Patrick Chung picked off the pass at the goal line and returned it to the Patriots 28.

But, during the return, Jacksonville offensive lineman Steve Vallos hit Trevor Scott from behind toward the end of the play. Vallos knocked Scott from behind and face first into the ground. Wilfork saw it and took big time exception with it and retaliated against Vallos. Wilfork was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty for sticking up for his teammate.

“That was protecting my teammate, plain and simple,” Wilfork said. “You’re not going to sit right in front of me and take a cheap shot at my guy with me standing behind you, that won’t fly. Plain and simple. I’ll probably get penalized for it, I did, but at the same time, you’ll never see me letting my teammates just get cheap-shotted like that with me standing right there.

“It is what it is, it’s part of football. Some people might not like it, some people might like it, but I’m going to do everything I can to protect my teammates,” he continued. “And I was protecting my teammate. But it is what it is, and I don’t think twice about it. If it happened again, I’d protect my teammate the best way I could.”

Read More: Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, nfl

AFC playoff field set with Bengals and Colts punching their tickets

12.23.12 at 5:36 pm ET
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The Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts are headed to the playoffs.

Both teams won games on the road Sunday to clinch their postseason berths, meaning all six spots in the AFC playoffs are spoken for. The only thing to be decided is the seeding.

Josh Brown, filling in for the injured Mike Nugent, kicked a 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to lift the Bengals over the Steelers 13-10 at Heinz Field on Sunday, sending the Bengals into the playoffs for a second straight season for the first time in 30 years.

Brown missed a 56-yarder earlier in the quarter but earned a second chance when Reggie Nelson picked off Ben Roethlisberger and returned it to the Pittsburgh 46 with 14 seconds remaining. Andy Dalton hit A.J. Green for 21 yards on the next play, setting up Brown’s game-winner.

Moments earlier in Kansas City, the Colts punched their ticket to the postseason with a late 20-13 win over the Chiefs. Andrew Luck threw for 205 yards to break the single-season rookie record, and his touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne late in the fourth quarter provided the margin of victory.

Luck surpassed Cam Newton‘s year-old record of 4,051 yards passing by a rookie in the second quarter, and then came through in the closing minutes. He marched Indy to the Chiefs 7, and then found Wayne in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal for the go-ahead score.

Darius Butler returned an interception 32 yards against the Chiefs (2-13) for a TD, helping the Colts (10-5) join the 2008 Miami Dolphins as the only NFL teams to win at least 10 games after losing 14 or more the previous season.

Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Darius Butler, Indianapolis Colts, nfl

Poll: How do you feel about the Patriots win?

12.23.12 at 4:39 pm ET
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How do you feel about the Patriots win?

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Snap Judgments: Patriots hang on to beat Jaguars, 23-16

12.23.12 at 4:09 pm ET
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In a game that was occasionally messy, the Patriots held on to beat the homestanding Jaguars Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville, taking a 23-16 decision to move to 11-4 on the season. New England was led by Tom Brady, who went 24-for-41 for 267 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. Stevan Ridley had 18 carries for 84 yards, while Wes Welker added 10 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. On the other side of the ball, Chad Henne was 29-for-51 for 348 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions on the afternoon.

Here are a few quick notes:


‘€¢After having some issues in the first quarter-plus on the afternoon, the New England offense got it cranked up in the second and into the third quarter, putting 20 unanswered points on the board and turning a 13-3 deficit into a 23-13 fourth-quarter lead. The Patriots best drive of the game came at the end of the second quarter, a 10-play, 66-yard sequence that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead that tied the game at 13 with less than a minute to go in the first half. The drive was highlighted by a direct snap to Ridley and an 11-yard pass play to Welker.

‘€¢A good day for the backfield, as Woodhead continues to be an important and versatile part of the offense — he had one receiving touchdown, and would have had a second if not for a terrific defensive play by Jacksonville’s Jeremy Mincey, who knocked the pass away at the last minute. In addition, running back Ridley bounced back nicely after a rough week against the Niners with 84 yards. (He’s 30 carries away from 300 — if he can hit the mark in the regular-season finale against the Dolphins next week, he’ll become the first 300-carry back for the Patriots since Corey Dillon turned the trick in 2004.)

‘€¢The two leading receivers — Brandon Lloyd and Welker — had another good game as a tandem. After finishing with 10 catches last week against the Niners, Lloyd had six catches for 62 yards Sunday in Jacksonville. As for Welker, he had 10 catches for 88 yards. Welker now has five seasons with at least 110 catches. No player in NFL history has more than two.

‘€¢After not showing much over the last few weeks — perhaps he’s been slowed by an ankle injury he suffered last month against the Colts — rookie defensive end Chandler Jones delivered a key fourth-quarter play to lift the New England defense. Down by seven in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville decided to take a shot for the end zone on fourth down. But Jones came off the edge and delivered a great shot on Henne, which affected the route of the ball. The pass was picked off by Patrick Chung. (The first of two picks on the afternoon for Chung.) Jones has struggled over the last few weeks, but it was a big play at a big time for the rookie out of Syracuse.


‘€¢The Patriots were extremely sluggish out of the gate, as they had issues on both sides of the ball when it came to keeping up with the woeful Jags. A large portion of that was likely due to the fact that New England was going with a lot of relatively new personnel combinations on both sides of the ball (because the Patriots wanted to get a look at some youngsters, as well as the fact that they were dealing with some injury). While it’s tough to fault them because some of it was due to new faces in new places, the slow start was initially a cause for concern.

‘€¢In that same vein, the Jags were able to take advantage of some confusion in the New England secondary and hit on some big pass plays. Jacksonville had some big plays early, including a 53-yarder to Montell Owens, a 36-yarder to Jordan Shipley and 18-yard pass plays to Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III.

‘€¢The New England offensive line is going through a rough patch. Brady was sacked just three times from Week 6 to Week 12. He’s now taken 11 sacks from Week 13 through Sunday.

‘€¢Chung was targeted in coverage on several occasions, and ended up taking a costly helmet-to-helmet hit late in the game on Shorts. He did come away with a pair of picks, but in between, it was a rough afternoon for the safety.

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