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Following the flags: Breaking down the Patriots penalties through four games

10.03.11 at 10:04 pm ET
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In their first four games of the season, the Patriots have been flagged for 28 penalties and 268 yards. Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against New England, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
Sergio Brown: two penalties (both defensive pass interference), 51 yards
Matt Light: two penalties (both holding), 20 yards
Nate Solder: two penalties (holding and illegal use of hands), 20 yards
Logan Mankins: two penalties (offensive holding and false start), 15 yards
Rob Gronkowski: two penalties (holding and false start), 15 yards
Brian Waters: two penalties (holding, offensive holding), 15 yards
Dan Gronkowski: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards
Leigh Bodden: two penalties (both defensive holding), 10 yards
Pat Chung: one penalty (unncessary roughness), 15 yards
Andre Carter: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
Rob Ninkovich: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
Kyle Love: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
Dan Connolly: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
James Ihedigbo: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
Devin McCourty: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
Chad Ochocinco: one penalty (illegal formation), five yards
Deion Branch: one penalty (false start), five yards
Vince Wilfork: one penalty (unsportsmanlike conduct), 2 yards
Team: one penalty (12 men on the field), 5 yards
Wes Welker: one penalty (illegal motion), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Offensive line: nine penalties for 80 yards
Safety: four penalties for 76 yards
Tight end: four penalties for 25 yards
Defensive line: three penalties for 32 yards
Cornerback: three penalties for 20 yards
Wide receiver: three penalties for 15 yards
Linebacker: one penalty for 15 yards
Team: one penalty for five yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
Offensive holding: eight
False start: five
Roughing the passer: three
Defensive holding: two
Illegal block above the waist: two
Defensive pass interference: two
Illegal formation: one
Illegal use of hands: one
Unsportsmanlike conduct: one
Unecessary roughness: one
Illegal motion: one
Twelve men in the huddle: one

Read More: Patriots, penalties,

Boomer Esiason on D&C: Patriots defense can’t continue at this horrid pace

10.03.11 at 10:10 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to discuss the Patriots’ defensive struggles and the dominance of Wes Welker.

Esiason said that the New England defense, which gave up 504 yards in Sunday’s 31-19 win over the Raiders, may not be able to withstand an onslaught from a top NFL offense.

“I just don’t know how far they can go with the defense giving up this many yards,” Esiason said. “When they start playing the really top-end quarterbacks in the NFL, I will not be surprised if I’m sitting here telling you that they lost 34-31. Because right now, the defense is not doing anything spectacular.”

Offensively, however, Esiason had rave reviews for Welker, who turned in another stellar performance in Sunday’s game with his nine catches for 158 yards and a touchdown.

“Forty catches already, over 600 yards, he’s an amazing guy,” Esiason said. “I think it was last year, he came back from a knee injury, and how quickly he got himself up to speed and into the offense. The guy, he’s a freak. He’s not a freak like Calvin Johnson or Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. We get it. He’s a different type of player. But when they need a money play, there’s one money player who’s going to get the ball, and it’s going to be him. He’s nothing short of miraculous.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On the running game: “It certainly takes a lot of pressure off of Tom [Brady]. I’m sure he’d love to go out and throw the ball 50 times every game and come away with 400 yards and four touchdowns, but there’s also the opportunity for mistakes. A quarterback’s best friend is really a great running game, if you can get that. Watching the guys do that yesterday … the fact is, that came out of nowhere. You know that Wes Welker is going to get his catches. But to run the ball as effectively as they did yesterday against that defensive front was a little bit surprising especially since the Patriots aren’t known as a running team.”

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Read More: boomer esiason, Jason Varitek, Jerod Mayo, Wes Welker

For the Patriots, no defense in the big picture

10.02.11 at 10:09 pm ET
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Two questions before we get started:

If you swapped the two quarterbacks on Sunday don’t you think the final score might have been Raiders 31, Patriots 19?

And how many points would this Patriots offense put up against this Patriots defense?

Look, Sunday’s 31-19 win over the Raiders was a nice bounce-back from the disaster in Buffalo. Going across the country to play is never easy, the Black Hole, the Raiders are actually pretty good, all that stuff is true.

So yeah, if I had offered you Patriots 31, Raiders 19 five minutes before kickoff you probably would’ve signed for it. Same goes for a 3-1 start to the season, right?

But this isn’t the 49ers we are talking about, or the Bills or the Redskins. The Patriots are a Super Bowl or Bust team, one of maybe three or four in the NFL this season (Packers, Saints, Jets). We might keep one eye on looking for signs of progress in regular-season games, but the other eye is always locked in on The Big Picture.

And now, exactly one quarter through the regular season, we know this about the 2011 Patriots:

Nothing.

Well, nothing new, anyway. We all thought this offense was going to again be among the two or three best in the NFL. Maybe not at the level we saw at the end of the 2010 regular season, but still high cotton. And that is exactly what they have been. If Tom Brady — on pace for 6,212 yards and 52 touchdown passes — isn’t the First-Quarter MVP he’s on the very very shortlist. Wes Welker leads the NFL in catches and receiving yards (he’s on pace for 160 catches — I know, I know, it’s early in the season but this is obviously the Welker we knew before the ACL injury in Houston). The running game? 4.2 yards per carry in 2010, 4.4 yards per carry this season (with Stevan Ridley looming as a possible successor to Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez as Rookie Game-Changer). Sure, Ochocinco hasn’t yet (and might not) panned out, but Gronkowski looks like an All-Pro, Deion Branch has contributed and Hernandez was off to a solid start before his injury.

Putting it another way, here’s the Patriots offense in the last eight games of 2010:

403.1 yards, 37.3 points.

And in the first four games of 2011?

507.5 yards per game, 34.7 points.

In reality, this offense has actually played at a higher level. In the Super Bowl or Bust Department, they pass the first quarter with the ol’ flying colors.

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Tom Brady says he’ll ‘never be’ in Joe Montana’s category

10.02.11 at 9:26 pm ET
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It was very ironic yet appropriate that Tom Brady passed Joe Montana as he moved up the all-time touchdown passing list on Sunday in the Bay Area.

It was just like a game the hero Brady grew up cheering would’ve been proud of, taking care of the ball, completing 16-of-30 passes in unspectacular fashion. But one week after one of his worst games in terms of taking care of the ball, Brady threw for just 226 yards and two touchdowns but no interceptions in a 31-19 win over the Raiders.

And the pass that moved Brady past Montana into ninth place all time with 274 touchdowns was a classic Montana throw – a short, accurate strike over the middle for four yards to Deion Branch to stretch the Patriots lead to 31-13.

“I didn’t know that happened,” Brady said. “I’ll never be in Joe’s category. We throw the ball a lot more than they threw it back then. It’s much more of a passing league now than it’s ever been. It was a good game for us. Every one of those touchdowns was important today. It was fun. It was fun to be out there after last week.”

Last week. That was when Brady threw four interceptions and helped the Bills come back from 21-0 down and shock the Pats, 34-31 at the final gun. But the quarterback headed for Canton wasn’t about to let one bad game discourage him from going out and throwing the ball again.

“Just play my game. I don’t think you ever approach it with, ‘I can’t go out there and throw it.’ Look, if you’re going to throw passes, you’re going to throw interceptions. That’s part of playing quarterback and you try to make good reads, good, accurate throws, good fundamentals, good technique and all week in practice you work on those things, being balanced and accurate and playing smart and playing fast.

“If it happens, it happens, you have to bounce back from them, that game, the following week. It’s just part of the game. I think we did a much better job of taking care of the football today, which I think was a big reason why we won.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Deion Branch, Joe Montana, New England Patriots, nfl

Key Moments: Wilfork and Ridley make big plays at important times in win over the Raiders

10.02.11 at 7:21 pm ET
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Here are the key moments for both the Patriots’ offense and the defense in Sunday’s win over the Raiders:

DEFENSE: With just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Raiders, the Patriots were holding a 31-13 edge and looking to shut the door on a pesky Oakland team that had been hanging around for three-plus quarters. With the Raiders in a first and 10 at the New England 30, Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell dropped back and looked for running back Darren McFadden out of the backfield.

However, Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork picked off Campbell, and then proceeded to rumble with the ball all the way down to the New England 19. While the Patriots were unable to turn the interception into points, it effectively ended the game for New England. It marked the second interception of the season for Wilfork, who also picked off a ball in the Week Two win over the Chargers, and the second interception of the game for the Patriots, who got a first-half interception from safety Pat Chung in his return.

OFFENSE: The Patriots were holding on to a 17-10 advantage at the start of the second half, but with the New England defense coming off a shaky first half, the lead looked a little tenuous. But the Patriots put together an extremely efficient seven-play, 81-yard drive that took 3:53 and was highlighted by a 33 -yard run from rookie running back Stevan Ridley. The LSU product, who picked up the first touchdown of his professional career, shot around the right side, picking up great blocks from tight end Rob Gronkowski and tackle Nate Solder en route to the end zone. The score made it 24-10, and allowed the Patriots to regain a measure of momentum to start the second half.

Read More: Darren McFadden, Jason Campbell, key moment, Nate Solder

Snap Judgments: Patriots 31, Raiders 19

10.02.11 at 7:19 pm ET
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The Patriots rebounded from last week’s loss in Buffalo with a 31-19 win over the Raiders in Oakland on Sunday.

Tom Brady tossed a pair of touchdown passes, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley each rushed for a score and the defense — while giving up plenty of yardage — came up with a pair of turnovers, including the second INT of the year for Vince Wilfork.

With the Buffalo loss at Cincinnati, the Patriots are now tied at the top of the AFC East with a 3-1 record. They will host the Jets in a much-anticipated contest next Sunday at Gillette.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Wes Welker followed up his record-breaking effort last week in Buffalo with another outstanding performance, catching nine passes for 158 yards and a TD (his fifth TD of the season, Welker has never caught more than eight TDs in a season). Welker leads the NFL with 40 catches and 616 yards.

— Stevan Ridley was an absolute game-changer out of the backfield, rushing for 97 yards on 10 carries. He picked up the first TD of his NFL career with a 33-yard, third-quarter score (with help from a pair of terrific blocks from Rob Gronkowski and Nate Solder). Ridley also ripped off a 15-yard first-half rush (via a direct snap). Ridley was part of a dominant rushing attack for the Patriots, as BenJarvus Green-Ellis also found the end zone (and finished with 74 yards on 15 carries) and Danny Woodhead chipped in with 13 yards on a pair of carries before leaving the game. The Patriots rushed for 184 yards in the win.

— Tom Brady wasn’t exactly sharp but unlike Campbell did not make that critical mistake. He finished 16-for-30 for 226 yards and the two TD passes.

Pat Chung returned on Sunday and made the biggest defensive play of the game in the second quarter. With the Raiders again doing whatever they wanted on offense (they put up 268 yards of offense in the first half), a touchdown seemed a certainty with a second-and-goal at the NE 6 with 2:15 left. But Jason Campbell inexplicably tossed a Tim Wakefield fastball right into the hands of Chung. Not a great play (you’ll never see an easier pick), but it was the trigger of perhaps a 10-point swing, as Brady led the Patriots on a 11-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a Steven Gostkowski 44-yard field goal to close out the half.

Richard Seymour picked up two personal-foul penalties to help the Patriots on the opening TD drive  (including a take-down of Brady on a play that has already been whistled dead), part of a seven-penalty (85 yards) first half for the Raiders.

Nnamdi Asomugha and Darrelle Revis have combined for as many INT’s has Vince Wilfork this season. Wilfork looked like a middle linebacker (OK, a 350-lb middle linebacker) on his INT of Campbell Sunday, dropping back into coverage and reading exactly where the QB was going to go.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— Injuries, injuries, injuries. First it was Kyle Love (who did return), Jerod Mayo, Danny Woodhead and Dan Connolly all went down on Sunday. Obviously the Mayo injury is the headline — his left knee, injured on the second-quarter drive that ended with the Chung interception. For this struggling defense to lose its best player for any length of time would be troublesome, but if this turns out to be a season-ender for Mayo it’s fair to wonder if this team can recover.

— Yup, they were opportunistic, but the defense was again shaky, giving up a total of 504 yards of offense. This group has now allowed 14 drives of 70 or more yards this season. Third-down? The Raiders finished 8-of-12. Stopping the run? Darren McFadden rushed for 75 yards on 14 carries (the Raiders picked up 160 yards on 27 carries). Brandon Spikes, Rob Ninkovich and Mayo had difficulty in coverage and cornerbackswas beat several times by Darris Heyward-Bey (on one of the Heyward-Bey Sergio Brown took a horrible angle and missed an easy hit). Shaun Ellis whiffed on a couple of chances to stop McFadden for losses, and Chung had a tough time covering Kevin Boss.

—  Quiet day for Rob Gronkowski, who finished with just one catch (15 yards).

Halftime analysis: Patriots 17, Raiders 10

10.02.11 at 5:44 pm ET
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The Patriots and the Raiders are done with two quarters in Oakland, and New England holds a 17-10 lead. Here are a few quick notes:

‘€¢For the second consecutive week, it’s clear the offense would be lost without Wes Welker. The receiver made a series of big catches and came away with 60 receiving yards and a touchdown catch in the first half. Meanwhile, Tom Brady ended the first half with 8-for-17 for 121 yards and one touchdown passes. On the other side of the ball, Jason Campbell — who clearly looks very comfortable in the Oakland offense — went 11-for-15 for 144 yards and one interception. Darren McFadden had eight carries for 57 yards.

‘€¢On defense, the Patriots lost defensive lineman Kyle Love with an ankle injury in the first quarter and linebacker Jerod Mayo to a knee injury in the second quarter, leaving an already hobbled defense in even bigger trouble. Overall, the Patriots, who had done a pretty good job limiting tight ends through three games (eight catches for 98 yards and one touchdown coming into today), yielded some early yards to Oakland tight end Kevin Boss, as the ex-Giant accounted for 35 of the 50 yards on the Raiders’ opening drive, a series that ended with a 28-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski to make it 3-0. After the Patriots’ first touchdown of the day, things got ugly after that, as the Raiders pulled together a six-play, 88-yard drive — which included a nasty 41-yard gain from McFadden — to make it 10-7 early in the second quarter.

‘€¢On the other side of the ball, former New England defensive lineman Richard Seymour was clearly jacked up about facing his old mates — he took two bad penalties on the Patriots’ opening drive for a total of 30 yards, helping New England put together its first touchdown of the game on its first drive. (Overall, the Raiders were flagged for a staggering seven penalties for 70 yards in the first half.) On that series Patriots picked up 15 yards on a direct snap to running back Stevan Ridley, a move that veteran Kevin Faulk has perfected on his career with the Patriots. (My personal favorite came in Super Bowl XXXVIII.) That series, which went nine plays, 80 yards and took 4:19, ended with a 15-yard pass from Brady to Welker on a play where Welker got a nice rub from Chad Ochocinco to get open inside the 10 and take it the rest of the way for the score to make it 7-3.

‘€¢After the Raiders first score, the Patriots put together another good series in the second quarter when they assembled a six-play, 64-yard drive that included completions to Welker of 21 and 24 yards, and ended with a one-yard plunge into the end zone from BenJarvus Green-Ellis to make it 14-10 midway through the second quarter. Stephen Gostkowski added a 44-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the half to finish the scoring over the first half.

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