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Nuggetpalooza: All the stats as Patriots close regular season against Dolphins

12.28.12 at 11:15 am ET
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The Patriots, still clinging to slim hopes of grabbing a playoff bye, close out the regular season with a matchup against the pesky Dolphins this Sunday in Foxboro. Get ready with some numbers that I thought you might find interesting.

* – Since 2000, most career passing yards in the season’s final week:

2,190 – Tom Brady
2,179 – Brett Favre
1,866 – Matt Hasselbeck

* – New England has won nine of its last 11 games on the final week of the season, including 4-of-5 on the road in that stretch.

Note this: The Packers have closed out nine straight (and 18-of-19) regular seasons with victories.

Note this, too: I noticed that somebody published the stat that the Cowboys have lost 10-of-12 regular-season finales. But once I looked at it, I found it interesting that they failed to mention that Dallas has won two of the last three. Guess THAT didn’t fit the agenda.

* – The Patriots have scored at least one rushing touchdown in each of their last eight games against the Dolphins, their longest such streak ever against Miami. However, it’s not their longest such streak against any opponent, as they ran for a score in 18 straight games against the Colts (1974-1983) and 15 against the Bills (1969-1979).

* – The Dolphins have ripped off a run of 10 or more yards in each of their last 33 games, dating back to Dec. 26, 2010. That’s the longest current streak in the league. 10 teams have registered a rushing play of 10 or more yards in every game this season, including the Dolphins (obviously) and the Patriots. If New England can extend that streak on Sunday, it would be the fourth season since 2000 that they’ve managed a run of 10 or more yards in every game.

* – The Patriots have 416 first downs this season, tied with the 2011 Saints for the most sine they began tracking the stat. Those two teams are the only ones to break 400 first downs in a season. The old Patriots club record was 399, by last year’s team.

* – New England has a great chance to set the club record for third-down conversion percentage:

48.6 percent – Patriots, 2012
48.2 percent – Patriots, 2010
48.2 percent – Patriots, 2007

* – All-time leaders in passing touchdowns against the Dolphins:

37 – Tom Brady
30 – Drew Bledsoe
26 – Joe Ferguson
25 – Ken O’Brien
24 – Jim Kelly

Note this: Brady has thrown 51 TD passes against the Bills, his most against any single opponent.

Note this, too: In Brady’s seven games against the Dolphins since the start of the 2009 season, he’s managed only one touchdown pass in four of those games.

* – The Patriots are 445 total yards away from their club record of 6,848, set last year. Their current total of 6,403 is their third-best mark for a season. Only five teams since 1970 (including last season’s Patriots) have accumulated 6,800 or more total yards in a season. The record is 7,474, by the 2011 Saints. Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski lead a Patriots parade of Pro Bowlers

12.26.12 at 7:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Another playoff season, another record-setting campaign of offense and another season of heavy Patriots representation on the AFC squad at the Pro Bowl. Now, all the Patriots want more is to politely decline the invites for the seven players because they’ll be getting ready for the Super Bowl, as was the case last season.

Quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, left guard Logan Mankins, inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, special teams captain Matthew Slater, wide receiver Wes Welker and nose tackle Vince Wilfork have been selected to represent the Patriots and the AFC in the 2013 Pro Bowl.

‘€œIt is flattering to be selected, but I have always considered Pro Bowl recognition as a reflection of the team’€™s overall success,” Brady said. “I am happy for my many teammates who were selected again this year. I know that there are many others who are equally deserving of the opportunity. One day, I am sure I will have a greater appreciation for individual accomplishments, but this week my focus is simply on our preparations for Miami.’€

Here is a sampling of other Pro Bowlers from Wednesday:

Wilfork: To be selected to my fifth Pro Bowl is amazing. I am honored and humbled. More importantly, I am proud that the other guys on my team are getting the recognition they deserve.

Mayo: It’€™s an honor to be recognized by my peers, the coaches and the fans, but it’€™s more of an honor to be one of seven of my teammates going to Hawaii, since that is a reflection of our overall team success. We’€™ll all enjoy the recognition tonight with our families and be right back to focusing on the Dolphins in the morning.

Slater: I am very thankful to be selected to the Pro Bowl. God has blessed me with this opportunity and the ability to stay healthy. I have a lot of people to thank. An honor like this does not come without your teammates next to you making plays. I want to thank coach Belichick for believing in me and taking a chance on me so I can live out my childhood dreams of playing in the NFL. Coach Scott O’€™Brien has pretty much changed my career with the way he teaches and coaches me. I also need to thank Joe Judge for what he has been able to teach me.

Mankins: We have a lot of guys who earned the honor this year, so that is pretty cool. It’€™s always nice to have your peers, coaches and fans select you to the Pro Bowl. Getting voted in is always a reflection of our team success. While I do appreciate this recognition, we need to get ready and keep our focus on the game this week against Miami.

No one on the Patriots has more experience accepting the honor than Brady. It is his eighth Pro Bowl selection (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012). Mankins (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012), Welker (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012) and Wilfork (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012) are next at five apiece.

Gronkowski and Slater earned their second straight Pro Bowl invitations, while Mayo (2010 and 2012) also earned a Pro Bowl berth for the second time.

Gronkowski, Mankins, Mayo and Wilfork were selected as starters.

The Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 27, 2013 at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii, and the Patriots are hoping they won’t be available for the game because the Super Bowl is one week later in New Orleans.

Brady was named to the Pro Bowl for the eighth time, including four straight seasons. John Hannah (9) is the only Patriots player with more Pro Bowls than Brady. Brady enters the final week of the season with 4,543 yards passing and 32 touchdowns. Brady became just the fifth player in NFL history to reach 4,000 yards in five or more seasons and the fifth player with at least 30 or more touchdown passes in four seasons. Brady needs one touchdown pass in the season finale vs. Miami to extend his streak to 48 straight games with at least one touchdown pass and move past Johnny Unitas (47) for the second longest streak behind Drew Brees (54). He will also become the first NFL player to throw at least one touchdown pass in all 16 games for three consecutive seasons. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jerod Mayo, Logan Mankins, Matthew Slater, New England Patriots

Chuck Pagano has good news for Patriots fans

12.26.12 at 6:30 pm ET
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Christmas was on Tuesday but on Wednesday – Boxing Day in Canada – there was some very good news from Indianapolis that might turn into a gift for the Patriots and their fans.

The returning Chuck Pagano – who will be coaching his first game since successful cancer treatment – told reporters that he intends to play all of his starters who are physically cleared to play, despite the fact that the Colts are slotted at the No. 5 seed in the AFC and that won’t change, win or lose.

It seems only fitting for a coach that just battled leukemia for the past three months.

‘€œIt’€™s just not in our DNA. It’€™s not in our makeup,’€ Pagano said Wednesday of playing his players to win. ‘€œThese kids deserve it, their families deserve it. Our fans in this city deserve our best every game regardless of the situation and regardless of the circumstances.’€

What’s at stake? If the Colts beat the 12-3 Texans and the 11-4 Patriots beat the Dolphins, the Patriots will have a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. The Colts also know that the Texans are playing for their playoff position, as a Houston win clinches the No. 1 seed and home field throughout the playoffs, as well as a first-round bye for the Texans.

Pagano ruled out running back Delone Carter (ankle) and center Samson Satele (ankle). The status of at least four others are likely game-time decisions.

‘€œWhether you agree with it or not, I think there is something to be said about keeping your momentum going and still going out and working on your craft,’€ Colts linebacker Dwight Freeney said. ‘€œGuys who can play, should play. I don’€™t know if it’€™s going to be a whole game situation scenario, but that’€™s up to the coaching staff to decide. You are risking getting hurt, but that’€™s just part of the nature of this game.’€

Pagano believes playing to win, whether Week 1 or Week 17 is still the main objective.

‘€œThey’€™re going to roll a ball out there and it’€™s our job to go out there and try to win a football game,’€ he said. ‘€œYou want to win. You want to win at home. You want to go into the playoffs with momentum.’€

And the Patriots would love that momentum to rest a week.

Read More: Chuck Pagano, dwight freeney, houston texans, Indianapolis Colts

Bill Belichick: Jermaine Cunningham will have some ‘catching up’ to do

12.26.12 at 4:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham returned to Patriots practice on Wednesday and will be eligible to return to game action this Sunday against Miami in the regular season finale. But Bill Belichick made it clear Wednesday that his return to the starting lineup is hardly automatic.

Cunningham was suspended Nov. 26 for four games by the NFL for violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. At the time of his suspension, Cunningham was coming on stronger than anyone along the defensive line not named Vince Wilfork. He had six tackles against the Jets on Thanksgiving, with 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits in 11 games before his league-mandated break.

“I think any time a player comes back after an absence for awhile ‘€“ whatever the reasons are don’€™t matter ‘€“ that there’€™s a combination of catching up mentally to what’€™s going on but also catching up from a technique standpoint and also communication and reaction,” Belichick said.

“Really, no matter how much a player runs around a track or does situps or whatever, it’€™s not the same as when the other 21 guys are out there hearing plays called, reacting to what happens on the other side of the play, communicating, making adjustments with your teammates. There’€™s just no way to do that other than to do it. I think that’€™s important for any player that’€™s coming back after missing some time, regardless what the reasons are. That’€™s definitely something that they need to do and they need to do it with their teammates. It’€™s something their teammates need to have happen as well as the individual player who wasn’€™t there himself. All that is part of it.”

Certainly, the bright side of the Cunningham suspension has the increased experience of defensive ends Justin Francis and Trevor Scott, especially Francis, an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers. Francis got experience he otherwise likely would not have seen on the field.

“It’€™s certainly a positive for some of the players who get those opportunities,” Belichick said. “If they can take advantage of them and use that opportunity to enhance their role or show through their performance that they’€™re ready to handle more responsibility, it’€™s a good thing for them and ultimately it can be a good thing for the team to be able to actually see those guys do it, see those guys improve, watch them get more reps in practice and in the games and get more confidence in them and know that their execution level is higher from that. I’€™d say that’€™s accurate.

Cunningham’s return at Wednesday’s walk-through was part of perfect attendance inside Dana-Farber Field House as the team worked out without pads and helmets.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Francis, New England Patriots

Tom Brady is still learning a lot from Bill Belichick: ‘There’s no better coach out there’

12.26.12 at 1:12 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady knows exactly how to act at this time of year. After all, he learned from Bill Belichick. And, as we found out on Wednesday, that process is ongoing.

“Of course, oh yeah,” Brady answered when asked if he’s still learning from the master of the game-by-game mentality. “I mean, you can never stop learning in this game and you can never stop improving. He’s been at it a for a lot longer than I have and I’m sure he feels like he’s still improving ad a coach and I’€™d agree. The things that we talk about, the things that; we’€™re trying to accomplish, those change. There are times when game plan changes or the opponent changes, but what you do individually to prepare yourself needs to be better. Certainly I’€™ve found ways to do that as I’€™ve gained more experience that I can prepare better and I can hopefully be a better leader and teammate and so forth, and ultimately go out there and execute well enough to win.”

Many of the highlights for the media going into Friday’s sessions with Belichick come when the Patriots coach waxes poetic about football history. Turns out, the same is true when Brady sits down with Belichick for one of their frequent weekly meetings in Belichick’s office, as was documented in the NFL Network’s “A Football Life: Bill Belichick” in 2011.

“He’s got a great memory, so his history lessons are some of the most fun meetings that we have,” Brady said. “When he gets to talking about previous players that he coached against or that he coached with, there are some pretty great stories and some history. Because I’€™m a pretty big football fan, it’€™s nice to hear those.”

How has Belichick’s stability helped him in preparing for games at this time of year?

“There’€™s no better coach out there and there’€™s no one that I’€™d ever want to play for,” Brady said. “He brings a consistency to our team in terms of our motivation, our focus, our execution, his expectations for us. I think winning is the most important thing and that’€™s the most important thing to him, and that’€™s what it’€™s all about, it’€™s a competition. There’€™s a test at the end of every week to see how well we did, and I think it’€™s important for us to ‘€“ it’€™s great when you don’€™t play your best to still win the games. You play better some weeks and lose games, but it comes down to wining the games and beating the opponent that you’re facing and that’€™s the goal of coach Belichick. And [it’€™s] what he talks about and preaches to us every single week about our execution and our attention to detail so that we can go out and be at our best competitively so we can score more points than the other team.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl, Tom Brady

In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

12.24.12 at 2:19 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. Fifteen games into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

RB Stevan Ridley: 276 (270 rushes, 6 catches). 24 negative runs.
WR Wes Welker: 111 (1 rush, 110 catches). 2 negative receptions.
RB Danny Woodhead: 108 (73 rushes, 35 catches). 2 negative runs, 2 negative receptions.
WR Brandon Lloyd: 73 (0 rushes, 73 catches).
RB Shane Vereen: 62 (54 rushes, 8 catches). 3 negative run.
TE Rob Gronkowski: 53 (0 rushes, 53 catches).
RB Brandon Bolden: 52 (50 rushes, 2 catches). 8 negative runs.
TE Aaron Hernandez: 47 (1 rush, 46 catches). 2 negative receptions.
WR Julian Edelman: 25 (4 rushes, 21 catches). 1 negative reception, 1 negative run.
QB Tom Brady: 23 (23 rushes, 0 catches.) 26 sacks, 8 kneel downs, 1 negative run.
WR Deion Branch: 15 (0 rushes, 15 catches).
QB Ryan Mallett: 8 (8 rushes, all kneel downs).
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 5 (0 rushes, 5 catches).
TE Daniel Fells: 4 (0 rushes, 4 catches).
TE Kellen Winslow: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch).
WR Donte Stallworth: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
RB Lex Hilliard: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)
TOTAL: 865 touches (485 rushes, 380 catches): 46 negative plays, plus 26 sacks and 16 kneel downs.

By position
Running back: 499 touches (448 rushes, 51 catches). 37 negative runs, 2 negative receptions.
Wide receiver: 225 touches (5 rushes, 220 catches). 3 negative receptions, 1 negative run.
Tight end: 110 touches (1 rush, 109 catches). 2 negative receptions.
Quarterback: 31 touches (31 rushes, 0 catches), 1 negative run.

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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
Read the rest of this entry »

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