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Where does Brandon Lloyd’s performance rank in the Tom Brady era? Higher than you think

12.17.12 at 3:27 pm ET
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The takeaway from Brandon Lloyd‘s performance Sunday was obvious: It was his best game as a Patriot. In reality, it was actually among the best receiving performances of the Tom Brady era, and one that had never even been turned in by Randy Moss in his time with the Pats.

Considering how Lloyd’s first season in New England had gone up until Sunday night’s matchup with the 49ers, the bar wasn’t exactly set extremely high. He’d been thrown to plenty — at least five targets in all but two games, seven or more targets in eight games and 12 or more in three games — but through his first 13 games as a Patriot, the former first-round pick had just two performances with 70 yards or more.

Lloyd more than exceeded whatever lowered expectations the last 13 games may have brought, turning in a gargantuan 10-reception, 190-yard performance on a night in which Brady went his way 16 times. Lloyd didn’t score a touchdown against the 49ers (he still has just four on the season), but he played an integral role in the Patriots coming back from 28 points down in the second half. In particular, Lloyd’s 53-yard reception with the Patriots on their own 18 yard line put the Pats in striking distance to set up Danny Woodhead‘s game-tying touchdown.

Lloyd also came up with a 24-yard grab on 4th-and-4 with the Pats down by 10 late to set up Stephen Gostkowski‘s field goal. The performance was one Patriots fans shouldn’t soon forget, and not just because it was a coming out party for the highly touted free agent signee. Lloyd’s 190 receiving yards are significant, as they stand as the third-most in a single game for the Pats once since Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe in the 2001 season.

Wes Welker has topped 190 yards twice for the Patriots, turning in a 16-catch, 217-yard performance in last season’s 34-31 loss to the Bills, as well as catching 15 passes for 192 yards on Nov. 22, 2009 in a 31-14 win over the Jets.

Obviously, receiving yards aren’t the only means of judging a great receiving performance, as Rob Gronkowski literally has a dozen multi-touchdown games under his belt that outshine Lloyd’s game against the 49ers. Still, Lloyd was brought in to be a vertical threat capable of producing big plays and big yards, and he did so Sunday in a way that’s rarely been seen even in this offense. Here’s a look at some of the biggest receiving performances of the Brady era for the Pats in terms of yards (meant to be a top-10 sort of list, but the apparent inability to correctly count to 10 on my part means it’s now a top-13 list):







Read More: Brandon Lloyd, Tom Brady, Wes Welker,

Bill Belichick: Players ‘fought hard and competed well, but it just wasn’t good enough’

12.17.12 at 2:28 pm ET
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A day after almost pulling off one of the most dramatic comebacks in NFL history, Patriots coach Bill Belichick talked about his team’s near miss Sunday night against the Niners.

“I thought they fought hard, absolutely. Yeah, I thought they fought hard and competed well, it just wasn’€™t good enough,” Belichick said of his team, which wiped out a 28-point second-half deficit before falling to San Francisco, 41-34. “It was just too many bad plays, too many mistakes; it just wasn’€™t good enough. But yeah, I thought we competed, we fought, we hung in there until the end. But we just didn’€™t perform well enough in any area.”

As for where the Patriots go from here, it’ll be business as usual as they start preparing to meet the Jaguars Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville.

“I’€™d say we’ll pretty much do the same thing we always do — we’€™ll look and talk about the game,” he said. “We’€™ll talk about the things that we did right and reinforce those. We’€™ll talk about the things we did wrong and correct those. Once that’€™s over with, we’€™ll put this game to rest and move on to Jacksonville.”

Here are a few more highlights from Belichick’s Monday afternoon conference call:
Read the rest of this entry »

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Fan falls from stands at Pats-49ers game, taken to hospital

12.17.12 at 1:05 pm ET
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A fan fell out of the Gillette Stadium stands during Sunday night’s Patriots-49ers game and was taken by ambulance to an area hospital, the team announced. The fan fell into the tunnel where the visiting team leaves the field.

A team spokesman said the fan was alert and awake when he left the stadium.

Resetting AFC playoff picture

12.17.12 at 7:48 am ET
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After Sunday’s action, here’s a quick look at where the AFC playoff stands:

1. Houston (12-2): Unless something wacky happens, the Texans wrapped up one of the top two spots with their win over the Colts on Sunday at home. Houston is in control of its’ own destiny — it can clinch a top-two seed with a win next week against visiting Minnesota, and if the Texans follow that up with a win over the Colts in the regular-season finale, they’ll clinch home field. Houston did an excellent job bouncing back after last Monday’s brutal loss to the Patriots, and sent a message to the rest of the AFC that it’ll be a tough out in the postseason.

Remaining schedule: vs. Vikings (8-6), at Colts (9-5).

2. Denver (11-3): The Broncos first quality win of the season came at a great time, as they crushed the reeling Ravens in Baltimore and moved a game ahead of the Patriots and into the No. 2 slot in the AFC chase. It’s next to impossible that Denver loses one of their two remaining games (the Broncos face Kansas City and Cleveland, and have the easiest strength of schedule the rest of the way, playing teams that are a combined 7-21 over the last two weeks), so it’s safe to say they have the No. 2 seed well in hand heading into the last two weeks of the season.

Remaining schedule: vs. Browns (5-9), vs. Chiefs (2-12).

3. Patriots (10-4): As Kevin Garnett once told us, “Anything is possible,” but at this point, it seems highly unlikely that the Patriots are going to get off the No. 3 seed. Even with games against Jacksonville and Miami, New England can’t move up unless the Texans or Broncos stumble, and at this point, that really doesn’t seem like a possibility. If things stay as they are, that would mean the Patriots would host a wild card game that first playoff weekend against the Bengals.

Remaining schedule: at Jaguars (2-12), vs. Dolphins (6-8).

4. Ravens (9-5): Ever since Ray Rice converted on 4th and 29 against the Chargers on Thanksgiving weekend, it’s been all downhill for Baltimore. The Ravens have taken a major step backwards over the last three weeks with three consecutive losses, culminating with a 34-17 home loss to the Broncos. Baltimore is clearly a shell of itself, and given where they are right now, it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to finish with a 9-7 mark, as they have games against the Giants and Bengals to finish out the season. However, the Ravens hold on to the fourth spot, the Colts will travel to Baltimore for a wild-card date with the Ravens.

Remaining schedule: vs. Giants (8-6), at Bengals (8-6).

5. Indy (9-5): The Colts were beaten pretty handily by the Texans on Sunday in Houston, going down by a 29-17 count. While it’s a safe bet that they’ll bounce back this weekend against the woeful Chiefs and hit double-digits in wins, their regular-season finale could be an interesting one against the Texans. Playoff positioning could still be on the line, and it would be interesting to see how Houston plays things if it’s locked into the top spot.

Remaining schedule: at Chiefs (2-12), vs. Texans (12-2).

6. Cincinnati (8-6): With all due respect to Indy, this might be the most surprising team in the mix, at least to this point. The Bengals have won five of their last six, and that hot streak — combined with the recent struggles of the Ravens and Steelers — have combined to put them in very good position entering the final two weeks of the season. If they do end up missing out, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves, as they have a pair of division games to close out their slate, with a contest at Pittsburgh and then home to face Baltimore.

Remaining schedule: at Steelers (7-7), vs. Ravens (9-5).

On the outside looking in: Pittsburgh (7-7), New York Jets (6-7), Miami (6-8).

Michael Crabtree: Hats off to Niners D for ‘stopping my dude Tom Brady’

12.17.12 at 3:25 am ET
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FOXBORO — For two-and-a-half quarters, 49ers star wide receiver Michael Crabtree watched as his San Francisco defense put the wraps on Tom Brady.

He knew it probably wouldn’t last forever.

And it didn’t. But in the end, the Niners did just enough to disrupt Brady and stopped him on two drives when it mattered late in the fourth quarter in a 41-34 win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

“Tonight was a good night for us, for our offense, making it happen at the end. I just [take] my hat off to the defense for stopping my dude, Tom Brady. That’s one of my favorites and I’m going to keep saying it.”

Crabtree certainly did his part, catching a pair of TD passes from Colin Kaepernick, including the go-ahead on with 6:25 left after Brady and the Patriots climbed out of a 31-3 hole.

“Just trying to make a play,” Crabtree said. “I told Kap to just put the ball up and he did and I took off running. Not at all. Just taking charge. I have to take advantage they give to me. It was a five-yard hitch. I have to make it happen. I just took it.

“Everything is football. Anything can happen. Cap trusted me and we made it happen.”

Crabtree finished with seven catches and 107 yards on the night.

“It was really about us, executing plays,” Crabtree said. “Those guys [Patriots D] did good. They stopped us on a couple of plays but it’s a fight. We won the fight.

“We proved that we can win against a good offense. We can win a shootout. Whatever it takes, that’s our motto. We came up with the ‘W’.”

Read More: Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, New England Patriots, nfl

Tom Brady: ‘I had a feeling we’d be able to come back’

12.17.12 at 2:51 am ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady had one of the most bizarre games of his career Sunday night during a 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Gillette Stadium.

Brady was intercepted twice while the running backs lost two fumbles. Brady finished 36-of-65 for 443 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 68.9.

It was a brutal first half for Brady and the offense, as he completed 10-of-19 passes for 76 yards and an interception. His quarterback rating at the half was 40.7.

But even down 31-3 with over 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Brady had a real sense the game wasn’t over.

“I didn’€™t think so,” Brady said when asked if he felt a sense of hopelessness. “I had a feeling we’€™d be able to come back. We hung in there, we battled back from a 28-point deficit, but we just made too many mistakes when we needed to make the plays. It’€™s a tough loss, but we’€™ve got to try to get some things corrected.”

Brady threw 46 passes in the second half and finished just shy of matching his boyhood idol Joe Montana for the greatest comeback in regular season history. The 49ers erased a 35-7 deficit on Dec. 7, 1980 and won 38-35. Of course, the all-time comeback was when Buffalo wiped out a 35-3 hole and beat the Oilers, 41-38, in overtime in the 1993 playoffs.

Of course, many fans will point to and second-guess the decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from New England’s own 12 with 2:24 left in the game, and still two timeouts and the two-minute warning at their disposal.

Did he think there might be any debate?

“No. I didn’t think about it,” Brady said. “We made a few of them. That was just bad execution.”

The Patriots converted their first three fourth-downs of the games before the incompletion on fourth-and-1. They finished 5-of-6 on fourth down but just 2-for-15 on third down, including 0-for-7 in the first half.

Here is the rest of Brady’s Q and A after the game: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, San Francisco 49ers, Tom Brady

Randy Moss returns to New England and has quick impact with touchdown grab

12.17.12 at 2:38 am ET
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FOXBORO — It didn’€™t take very long for former Patriots receiver Randy Moss to make an impact on Sunday night. Moss, who started in place of the injured Mario Manningham and played opposite Michael Crabtree, drew the coverage of rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

Moss caught a 12-yard strike from 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on San Francisco’€™s third offensive play from scrimmage, and put the first score on the board three plays later. Moss was able to get behind Dennard down the left sideline, while Kaepernick lofted an easy 24-yard pass over the top of the Patriots defense.

It was Moss’€™ third touchdown catch of the year, and his first since the 49ers’€™ Week 8 matchup with the Cardinals on Oct. 29.

Moss’ ability to take the top off an opposing defense has stood out throughout his career, and on Sunday night, against his former team with whom he set records aplenty, Moss contributed in signature form. In doing so, he exposed an issue that has afflicted New England at different points throughout 2012.

Coming off of a game where the Patriots dominated so thoroughly on Monday night, the problems that had plagued this defensive secondary seemed to fall by the wayside until Moss opened up the scoring on the long play.

Moss declined to comment after the game on Sunday night; instead, he left his locker soon after the game had ended. He did tweet out at roughly 1:30 a.m., ‘€œThe game is over!!i don’t wanna talk bout Tht.’€

He was targeted two more times on the night, but did not pull in another pass after the first offensive possession for the 49ers.

Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo said that as a whole his team wasn’€™t very surprised by the play of Kaepernick and his ability to make the throws that he did.

‘€œWe knew [Kaepernick] could throw the ball from watching film,’€ Mayo said. ‘€œWe didn’€™t know is they were going to throw it or not because it was raining a bit. But they came out and threw the ball, scored on us early. Like you said earlier, we fought back, but it wasn’€™t enough.’€

When Dennard went down late in the second quarter with a knee injury, the Patriots applied a different scheme to cover Moss, with a combination of Kyle Arrington, Aqib Talib and safeties making sure the veteran receiver was accounted for.

Despite not having another catch after the first quarter, Moss was the second-leading San Francisco receiver, with 36 yards total on the night.

Read More: Colin Kaepernick, New England Patriots, Randy Moss, San Francisco 49ers
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