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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 10

11.09.10 at 6:02 am ET
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A new team enters a familiar position in this week’s edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Like many teams ranked No. 1 this year, the Patriots reign on top was short-lived. This week, the Baltimore Ravens edge the Pittsburgh Steelers and hold the title “Best team in football” for the second time this season.

The conclusion of Week 9 brings new life to the NFC. The G-Men climb their way into the top five and sit at No. 4. The Falcons (No. 6), Packers (No. 7), and Eagles (No. 9) all leap up after impressive wins.

The bottom-feeders remain the same. The Cardinals (No. 28), Broncos ( No.29), Cowboys (No. 30), Panthers (No. 31), and Bills (No. 32) all retain their spots from the previous week.

1. (3) 6-2 The Ravens defense played tough, physical football Sunday. They were able to get pressure on Chad Henne and forced three interceptions. On offense, Baltimore benefitted from giving Ray Rice more touches. Rice had 22 carries but also caught seven passes out of the backfield.

2. (2) 6-2 The Steelers defense does it every time. They make big plays in key moments of the game. On Monday night, they stepped up again and ended a late Bengals surge. The “Steel Curtain” also can boast about their 21 takeaways this season.

3. (5) 6-2 The Jets improved to 6-2 but Rex Ryan must be worried about his offense. The receiving core continues to drop balls and the offensive unit as a whole is consistently turning the ball over and committing penalties.

4. (6) 6-2 The Giants have a balanced offensive attack and one of the best defensive lines in football. Their offensive unit turned in another solid performance Sunday in Seattle with 197 yards on the ground and 290 yards through the air.

5. (Last week, 1) 6-2 The Patriots offense is still adjusting to life without Randy Moss. Tom Brady and his offensive unit have struggled over the past few weeks, especially Wes Welker. Over the past three weeks Welker hasn’t had more than four catches. Defensively, the Pats have struggled tremendously against the run. They will have a chance to redeem themselves against one of the best running backs in the league, Rashard Mendenhall, Sunday night against the Steelers.   Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: NFL Power Rankings,

Five Things from the Patriots Locker Room

11.08.10 at 8:11 pm ET
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Five things we got from the Patriots locker room on a relatively slow Monday afternoon:

1. Running better routes. There were several occasions on Sunday where the New England offense looked out of sync, and on many of those occasions, it appeared quarterback Tom Brady and one of the younger receivers ‘€” Brandon Tate, Danny Woodhead, Aaron Hernandez ‘€” were not on the same page. (There was one instance where Woodhead came back to the huddle with a puzzled look on his face and his palms up as if to say, ‘€œWhat happened?’€)

That’€™s why it was interesting to hear two veteran pass catchers, speaking independently of one another on Monday afternoon, saying the receivers and tight ends in the Patriots offense can’€™t be doing too much freelancing. Deion Branch mentioned that Sunday there were too many instances when players were ‘€œrunning around, making up plays, making up routes.’€

‘€œWe didn’€™t execute our plays,’€ Branch said. ‘€œIt takes all 11 guys to do one job. If we’€™re running the ball to the right, we have to set up and do everything [correctly]. We have to block right. If we’€™re trying to throw the ball, the receivers have to be at the right depth when Tom [Brady] is ready to throw the ball. Tom has to make the throws and we have to make the catches.’€

Tight end Alge Crumpler echoed the point.

‘€œFor us, it’€™s important for us to go out there and do our job, run our route the way we’€™re coached to run our route, and catch the football when it’€™s thrown to us,’€ said the veteran tight end.

2. Branch makes a promise. The receiver, who was one of three guys (a group that included Crumpler and cornerback Kyle Arrington) to talk at length with the media on Monday afternoon, said he promised a ‘€œtotally different team’€ on Sunday against the Steelers than the one that struggled in an ugly 34-14 loss to the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday.

‘€œIt’€™s going to be a different team, I’€™m going to tell you that right now,’€ Branch said on Monday afternoon. ‘€œI’€™ll promise you all that. It started today. We’€™re expecting a totally different team.’€

In the wake of Sunday’€™s loss, both Brady and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork blamed a bad week of practice. It was a point echoed by Branch on Monday afternoon.

‘€œIt showed up,’€ Branch said of how the bad week of practice extended to the field on Sunday. ‘€œWhatever you do in practice is going to show up in the game [and] it showed up in the game. We didn’€™t practice good on Wednesday, Thursday had an OK practice, and then Friday. ‘€¦ How do you expect to play a great game on Sunday?’€

3. Rob Gronkowski. After playing so well for the first seven games of the season as a rookie, he finally looked like … well, a rookie against the Browns. He dropped multiple passes that certainly appeared catchable, he looked to be the one at fault in the blown kick return in the first quarter that resulted in a turnover and he fumbled away a ball when the Patriots were in the Cleveland red zone driving for a touchdown before the end of the half.

To his credit, he spoke with the media after the game on Sunday, taking responsibility for what happened. He left the locker room as media availability began on Monday afternoon, but Crumpler ‘€” who has served as mentor both on and off the field to rookie tight ends Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez ‘€” was quick to come to the defense of the rookie tight end out of Arizona.

‘€œI’€™ve already talked to Rob,’€ Crumpler said. ‘€œI’€™m not worried about Rob.’€
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Alge Crumpler, Bill Belichick, Deion Branch, Logan Mankins

Bill Belichick on The Big Show: Too many mistakes

11.08.10 at 6:38 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined The Big Show for his regular Monday appearance and the coach broke down the loss to the Browns and talked about preparations for the Steelers.

Belichick summed up the loss to Cleveland by saying his team didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. “Those were good plays by them, mistakes by us,” Belichick said. “We had too many of them and in the end when you don’€™t do things well over a long period of time, you end up with a 20-point loss. That’€™s what it was and that’€™s what it should have been.”

(Click here to listen to the whole interview).

Belichick also talked about the return of Logan Mankins who made his 2010 debut with the Patriots. “I think Logan had a good week of practice,” the coach said. “He got a lot of reps and played a significant amount in the game [Sunday]. It was his first game I think that will continue to improve. I’€™m sure he’€™ll be better and there are things he can definitely do better, but it’€™s good to have him back.”

Belichick was also asked about whether the absence of Randy Moss has had an effect on his offense.

“There’€™s no doubt Randy’€™s a good player, but I think we have a lot of good players on offense,” Belichick said. “Our ability to move the ball and score points, we’€™ve been able to do that. We didn’€™t do it as much as we needed to [Sunday].”

More highlights from the conversation: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Big Show, Bill Belichick, Browns

Report: Wheatley will sign with the Jaguars

11.08.10 at 6:28 pm ET
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Patriots cornerback Terrence Wheatley will sign a contract with the Jaguars, according to a report from Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe. Wheatley, who was a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2008, began his career with New England with great promise, working his way into a starting role midway through his rookie season. But the Colorado product was dogged by injuries over the last two seasons, and had yet to see the field this year because of a foot injury. He was released by the Patriots on Saturday to make room for Logan Mankins on the active roster.

Read More: Logan Mankins, Terrence Wheatley,

Sources: Suisham, Stover not headed for New England

11.08.10 at 4:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” With reports indicating that Stephen Gostkowski could miss a couple of weeks because of a thigh/quad injury he suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Browns, the Patriots could be in the market for a kicker.

However, a league source has indicated that Shaun Suisham ‘€” who has been linked to New England as a possible replacement for Gostkowski, and had a workout with the Patriots earlier this season ‘€” is on the way to Detroit Monday for a workout with the Lions, who also saw injury at the kicker position when Jason Hanson went down with a knee injury this past weekend against the Jets.

In addition, another league source indicates that veteran kicker Matt Stover ‘€” who has a longtime relationship with Patriots coach Bill Belichick that dates back to their days together in Cleveland in the early 1990s ‘€” has yet to receive a call from the Patriots as of Monday afternoon.

After Gostkowski went down on Sunday, wide receiver Wes Welker was used as the Patriots emergency kicker. Welker delivered an extra point and a kickoff in the fourth quarter of a 34-14 loss to Cleveland.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Matt Stover, Shaun Suisham, Stephen Gostkowski

Branch: ‘Totally different team’ will face Steelers on Sunday

11.08.10 at 4:06 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch promises a “totally different team” on Sunday against the Steelers than the one that struggled in an ugly 34-14 loss to the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a different team, I’m going to tell you that right now,” Branch said on Monday afternoon. “I’ll promise you all that. It started today. We’re expecting a totally different team.”

In the wake of Sunday’s loss, both quarterback Tom Brady and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork blamed a bad week of practice. It was a point echoed by Branch on Monday afternoon.

“It showed up,” Branch said of how the bad week of practice extended to the field on Sunday. “Whatever you do in practice is going to show up in the game [and] it showed up in the game. We didn’t practice good on Wednesday, Thursday had an OK practice, and then Friday. … How do you expect to play a great game on Sunday?”

Read More: Deion Branch, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork,

Brandon Meriweather on D&H: ‘They came to play. We didn’t’

11.08.10 at 12:56 pm ET
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Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show on Monday, and he was blunt in answering why the team lost to the Browns on Sunday. “They came to play. We didn’t. There’s nothing else you can say,” Meriweather said. “They executed in all three phases of the game, we didn’t.”

To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Meriweather echoed his teammates’ sentiment in saying the team had a bad week of practice, which influenced Sunday’s outcome. “It was a bad week of practice all the way around,” Meriweather said, before emphasizing that it is not a valid excuse. “I do think that you have to be a professional about it and know that that’s what you get paid to do, and that’s your job. And I don’t know, nobody on our team came to do that.”

Meriweather said that the team knows when practice is sluggish even without the coaches screaming. “You can tell,” he said. “Everybody on our team knows what each other is supposed to do. When something goes wrong, somebody is not supposed to be in a place, you know. We had a lot of communication problems and breakdowns in practice and it showed in the game.”

Meriweather said he believes the Patriots will not make the same mistakes this week in preparing for Pittsburgh, as evidenced by his eagerness to get back to work. “A great week of practice starts actually right after the game,” he said. “The quicker you can forget a game and move on to the next, the better that week will be.”

The defense had no answer for Browns running back Peyton Hillis, who produced 220 total yards and two touchdowns. When asked what type of matchup problems a back like Hillis provides, Meriweather replied, “He’s a big back. I thought we did a poor job of gang tackling. Instead of just letting one person make the tackle, we should have been helping each other more. … We should have all been sticking our head in there together.”

Read More: Brandon Meriweather, Peyton Hillis,
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