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Devin McCourty: One ‘great game’ doesn’t mean Peyton Manning can’t ‘attack you’

10.03.12 at 4:58 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After the replacement officials, no one faced more criticism after New England’s 31-30 loss in Baltimore on Sept. 23 than Devin McCourty.

He dropped a pair of potential interceptions and was beaten on the final pass that set up the game-winning field goal.

But on Sunday he redeemed himself with his first two interceptions of 2012.

“As a defensive back, it always feels good to come down with interceptions, that’s what we work hard [at] and that’s really the biggest reward of playing defensive back,” McCourty said. “That’s big, and defensively, turnovers always help.”

Was it just a matter of confidence? Well, yes and no. McCourty said he felt more confident but that confidence is built during a week of good practice – not necessarily during the game.

“For us, it’s each week we want to try to get better,” McCourty added. “We work hard in practice to go out there and perform well on Sunday,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I think my confidence will start today with going out and having a good practice and just keep building throughout the week.”

In his third NFL season, McCourty knows there can be endless talk about a cornerback’s confidence going into a particular game. He explained Wednesday why all the “confidence” talk can be overrated – especially with an experienced quarterback like Peyton Manning coming to town.

“Because a lot of things we go into the game [with] are determined in practice,” McCourty said. “When we have a good week in practice, when we have a good week studying film, you go into those games confident. Just because you have a great game one week, it doesn’t mean you’re going to go into that next game feeling like no one can attack you. There’s different offenses, you see different guys each week. That week in practice always determines a lot.”

Read More: Denver Broncos, Devin McCourty, New England Patriots, nfl

Patriots officially bring back Bobby Carpenter and Alex Silvestro

10.03.12 at 12:51 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With uncertainty surrounding the health and availability of rookie starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower and his injured hamstring, the Patriots have officially re-signed linebacker Bobby Carpenter and signed tight end Alex Silvestro to the practice squad.

In addition, the Patriots released DL Terrell McClain. McClain was signed by the Patriots on Sept. 26, and played in a reserve role last Sunday at Buffalo. The team also released OL Thomas Austin from the practice squad.

Carpenter, 29, is a veteran of six NFL seasons with Dallas (2006-09), Miami (2010) and Detroit (2010-11). He joined the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent from Detroit on April 5, 2012 and was released on Sept. 1 following training camp. The 6-2, 250-pounder was originally drafted in the first round (18th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft by Dallas out of Ohio State.

He has played in 89 NFL games with 10 starts and has accumulated 165 total tackles, one interception that he returned for a touchdown, 3.5 sacks, five passes defensed and one fumble recovery. Last season, Carpenter played in 16 games with three starts for the Lions and recorded 29 total tackles and his first career interception at Dallas on Oct. 2 and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.

McClain, 24, is in his second NFL season. The 6-foot-2, 291-pounder joined the NFL as a third-round draft pick (65th overall) of the Carolina Panthers out of South Florida in 2011. Last season with the Panthers, McClain started in 12 games and finished the season with 19 total tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery. He was released by Carolina on Sept. 2, 2012.

Austin, 25, was signed by the Patriots to the practice squad on Sept. 1. He was originally signed by Minnesota as a rookie free agent on April 24, 2010 out of Clemson. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder was waived by Minnesota on Sept. 4, 2010 and joined the New England practice squad on Sept. 29, 2010. He was released by the Patriots prior to the start of the regular season last year and claimed off waivers by Houston, where he played in three games. Austin was released by Houston on Aug. 26, 2012.

Read More: Alex Silvestro, Bobby Carpenter, Dont'a Hightower, New England Patriots

Thoughts on Patriots, penalties, Bobby Carpenter

10.03.12 at 12:25 am ET
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We broke down the Patriots and their penalty situation after four games, and a few things stuck out: First, the fact that they followed a 10-penalty game with a one-penalty contest. (Have to imagine that part of that is due to the return of the regular refs.)

Second, while they are about the same when it comes to total penalties assessed, they are almost 100 yards off last year’s pace (268 yards last year, 173 this year) when it comes to total penalty yards lost.

And third, three offensive players have taken every snap this year for the Patriots — quarterback Tom Brady, center Ryan Wendell and left tackle Nate Solder — and none of the three have picked up a single penalty all season. It’s amazing to consider that two offensive linemen, particularly a left tackle like Solder, have played so much and managed to avoid committing a penalty.

‘€¢ With the news from Tom Curran of CSN that Dont’a Hightower might have a problematic hamstring, it’s no surprise that the Patriots are likely to bring back Bobby Carpenter to play linebacker. Carpenter, who was cut on Sept. 1, looked like he was going to make the team for a couple of reasons out of camp, not the least of which was the fact that he was very good when it came to playing the pass. On Sunday against the Bills, Brandon Spikes played very well against the run, but there was more than one time where he looked overwhelmed in pass coverage. While Tracy White flashed positively at times working against Buffalo on Sunday, Carpenter would take the bulk of the snaps in passing downs going forward.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reflects on opportunity to face his old team

10.02.12 at 9:08 pm ET
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As far as Josh McDaniels is concerned, it’s just another game.

On Sunday, the Patriots will meet the Broncos at Gillette Stadium. For McDaniels, it’ll represent the chance to meet his old team on the field once again: he was head coach in Denver for the 2009 season and part of the 2010 campaign.

But McDaniels said Tuesday afternoon that in his eyes, it’s just “the next game.”

“It’€™s an important game for our team,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “I think there are a lot of times over the course of a season where either players or coaches on either team have had the experience of been a part of another organization or team, and I think that happens rather often I would say. I think it’€™s a big game for us because it’€™s the next one, and [we’€™re] trying to build on some of the things that we did well in the last game and really emphasize trying to play well at home.”

McDaniels kicked off his career as a head coach in 2009 with six straight wins. However, it was all downhill from there, as Denver lost six of it’s last 10 games to finish the season 8-8. The following year, the Broncos were 3-9 when owner Pat Bowlen pulled the plug on McDaniels.

Asked what he learned from his experience in Denver, McDaniels said it was hard to pinpoint just one thing.

“I think any time you take on another role or another position, there are always a lot of things that you learn,” he said. “It’€™s hard to really pinpoint one thing over another, but they gave me a great opportunity. It’€™s a great organization, a great owner and you go out there and try to do the best you can with what you know and the things that you’€™re capable of doing. I think that ultimately you learn a lot of different things.

“It’€™s hard really to pinpoint one or two things about exactly what you learn,” he added. “You learn a lot of different things on a lot of different levels because you’€™re involved in so many different aspects of the organization as a head coach. Hopefully all of those different experiences will pay off and make me a better person and coach going forward in the future.”

Here are a few other highlights from his Q&A:
Read the rest of this entry »

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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

10.02.12 at 8:03 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. Four weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

RB Stevan Ridley: 79 (74 rushes, 5 catches). 10 negative runs.
RB Danny Woodhead: 33 (29 rushes, 4 catches). 2 negative runs.
WR Brandon Lloyd: 25 (0 rushes, 25 catches).
WR Wes Welker: 25 (0 rushes, 25 catches).
RB Brandon Bolden: 24 (23 rushes, 1 catches). 3 negative runs.
TE Rob Gronkowski: 19 (0 rushes, 19 catches).
WR Julian Edelman: 12 (2 rushes, 10 catches). 1 negative reception, 1 negative run.
TE Aaron Hernandez: 7 (1 rush, 6 catches).
QB Tom Brady: 6 (6 rushes, 0 catches.) 8 sacks and 2 kneel downs.
WR Deion Branch: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Shane Vereen: 2 (1 rush, 1 catch)
TE Kellen Winslow: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TE Daniel Fells: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TOTAL: 237 touches (136 rushes, 101 catches): 17 negative plays, plus eight sacks.

By position
Running back: 138 touches (127 rushes, 11 catches). 15 negative runs.
Tight end: 29 touches (1 rush, 28 catches).
Wide receiver: 64 touches (2 rushes, 62 catches). 1 negative reception, 1 negative run.

Other offensive notes: The big mover on the list this week was Bolden, who came into Sunday’€™s game with just seven touches over the first three weeks of the season, tied for seventh-most on the team. With 17 touches against the Bills, he moved to 24 on the season, good for fifth on the team. … The Patriots were in the in the no-huddle for 15 of their 77 snaps on Sunday against the Bills, or 19 percent. It was a season low. Through three weeks, the Patriots have been in no-huddle for 85 of their 299 plays from scrimmage, a rate of 28.4 percent. ‘€¦ The Patriots are tops in the league in total offense (438.3 yards per game) and points per game (33.5). They are eighth in the NFL in average rushing yards (144 yards per game) and sixth in the league in average passing yards (294.3 yards per game). … Through four games, the Patriots have attempted 154 passes and run the ball 137 times. … Thanks in large part to their 31-point fourth quarter against the Bills, the Patriots enjoy a plus-22 point differential in fourth-quarter scoring (49-27). They’€™ve also outscored their opponents in the first (30-9) and third quarters (31-28). The only quarter when they are getting outscored is the second (28-24). Overall, they hold a 134-92 scoring edge on their opponents through four games — their plus-42 mark is the second-best in the AFC, trailing only the Texans, who are at plus-70.

Read More: offensive opportunities,

Pats waive DT Terrell McClain, reportedly cut OL Thomas Austin and are set to bring back LB Bobby Carpenter

10.02.12 at 7:02 pm ET
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The Patriots placed defensive tackle Terrell McClain on waivers on Tuesday. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder was active for his one game with the team — last Sunday against Buffalo — but did not register any statistics in limited action. The 24-year-old was a 2011 third-round pick of the Panthers, but was released by Carolina last month before getting scooped up by the Patriots.

According to Tom E. Curran of Comcast Sports Net, the Patriots have also terminated the contract of practice squad offensive lineman Thomas Austin. In his second tour with the Patriots — he was on New England’s practice squad in 2010 — Austin was signed to the team’s practice squad on Sept. 1 after being waived by the Texans. He’s also seen time with the Vikings.

In addition, CSNNE is also reporting that in the wake of a hamstring injury to rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots are expected to re-sign linebacker Bobby Carpenter. The 29-year-old Carpenter, who was signed by New England this offseason but was cut before the start of the season, has some positional versatility, having played both middle and inside linebacker over the course of his six seasons in the NFL.

Read More: Bobby Carpenter, Terrell McClain, Thomas Austin,

Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

10.02.12 at 12:52 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 four weeks of the 2012 regular season:

WR Wes Welker: 25 catches on 37 targets
WR Brandon Lloyd: 25 catches on 38 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 19 catches on 29 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 10 catches on 15 targets
TE Aaron Hernandez: Six catches on eight targets
RB Stevan Ridley: Five catches on eight targets
RB Danny Woodhead: Four catches on five targets
WR Deion Branch: Two catches on three targets
RB Brandon Bolden: One catch on one target
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: One catch on one target
TE Kellen Winslow: One catch on two targets
TE Daniel Fells: One catch on two targets
RB Shane Vereen: One catch on two targets
TOTALS: 101 catches on 151 targets

By position
Wide receiver: 62 catches on 93 targets
Tight end: 28 catches on 42 targets
Running back: 11 catches on 16 targets

By way of comparison, here’s how the targets looked after four games last season.

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