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Victor Cruz is ‘looking at life through a different lens’ after visiting Sandy Hook family

12.18.12 at 9:19 pm ET
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With his salsa TD celebrations and a Super Bowl championship, Victor Cruz has brought much joy to the fan base of the New York Giants. On Tuesday, he tried to give something else on his day off from the Giants — comfort to one of the families that suffered a horrific loss last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The UMass product traveled to Newtown, Conn., on Tuesday, visiting with the family of a Jack Pinto, a 6-year-old boy killed Friday in the Sandy Hook shooting.

Pinto was a Giants fan who called Cruz his favorite player. The wideout visited the family for more than three hours, a day after the boy was laid to rest wearing a No. 80 Cruz jersey.

“Much love to the entire Pinto family. Great people with huge hearts,” Cruz tweeted after leaving the home. “Looking at life through a different lens.”

Cruz wrote “Jack Pinto” and “My Hero” on his cleats prior to the Giants’ 34-0 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday.

Cruz and the family made it clear they wanted no publicity about the visit, a point made clear afterward.

“It was a successfully private moment, and I’d prefer to keep it that way,” a guest told afterward. (For video of Cruz, visit

Cruz, like many players and coaches around the NFL, was nearly in tears before Sunday’s game, as the NFL paid tribute to the 20 children and six innocent adults who were murdered in the massacre at Sandy Hook.

Clearly, a moment like Tuesday helps players and families alike on the long and difficult road to coping and healing.

Read More: Jack Pinto, New York Giants, Newtown, nfl

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2012 season

12.18.12 at 8:08 pm ET
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Through 14 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 87 penalties (tied for 22nd in the league) for a total of 753 yards (20th 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
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
DL Vince Wilfork: five penalties (three encroachment, defensive offsides, facemask), 35 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: four penalties (two offensive holding, false start, offensive pass interference), 35 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: three penalties (two defensive pass interference, defensive holding), 60 yards
CB Devin McCourty: three penalties (defensive holding, two defensive pass interference), 51 yards
TE Aaron Hernandez: three penalties (two offensive pass interference, false start), 25 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

Read the rest of this entry »

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Josh McDaniels: Pats need to fix turnovers to make sure ‘we don’t hurt our team’

12.18.12 at 5:53 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As we learned Sunday night, losing the turnover battle is about the only thing that can really stop the Patriots from a march toward the Super Bowl.

And despite losing two fumbles and two interceptions, the Patriots nearly pulled one out of the hat, overcoming a 28-point deficit, only to lose 41-34.

The Patriots entered the game with an NFL-best +24 turnover ratio. They won the turnover battle in 21 straight games.

But in a stunning turnaround, Tom Brady threw a pair of interceptions and Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen lost fumbles. The Patriots were lucky in the first half when two turnovers led to zero points but not as lucky in the second half when the Niners scored on the next play after each turnover.

While Ridley has come under scrutiny for his two fumbles (one nullified when he was down by contact), Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels confirmed the urgency Tuesday to reinforce the issue of ball security in the final two weeks of the season.

“I think we want all of the skill players to protect the football. We work at it and try to emphasize that and generally I think we’€™ve done a decent job of it during the course of the season. There are certain times when the defense either gets it out or maybe we don’€™t necessarily possess the type of ball security that we need on a certain play or in a certain game,” McDaniels said. “I think it’€™s more that if we’€™re being careless and the carelessness is repetitive and the ball is obviously not protected, we need to address that as a group; we need to address that and make sure that we try to fix it so that we don’€™t hurt our team.

“But in terms of a particular game or a specific, ‘€˜How many times does the ball need to be away from a player’€™s body’€™ or ‘€˜how many throws does the quarterback make that the defense touches before you get him out of the game,’€™ I’€™ve never really had a specific chart or philosophy on that. I think more or less you’€™ve got to try to make sure that each player who touches it is securing it and taking care of it and if you feel like there is too big of a risk, then certainly you need to address it either that day or in the week of practice.”

Here is the rest of Tuesday’s conference call with McDaniels: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots, nfl, Stevan Ridley

In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

12.18.12 at 5:22 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. Fourteen games into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

RB Stevan Ridley: 258 (252 rushes, 6 catches). 24 negative runs.
RB Danny Woodhead: 103 (70 rushes, 33 catches). 2 negative runs, 2 negative receptions.
WR Wes Welker: 100 (0 rushes, 100 catches). 2 negative receptions.
WR Brandon Lloyd: 67 (0 rushes, 67 catches).
RB Shane Vereen: 62 (54 rushes, 8 catches). 3 negative run.
TE Rob Gronkowski: 53 (0 rushes, 53 catches).
RB Brandon Bolden: 47 (45 rushes, 2 catches). 7 negative runs.
TE Aaron Hernandez: 46 (1 rush, 45 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.) 23 sacks, 8 kneel downs, 1 negative run.
WR Deion Branch: 13 (0 rushes, 13 catches).
QB Ryan Mallett: 8 (8 rushes, all kneel downs).
TE Daniel Fells: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches).
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 3 (0 rushes, 3 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: 814 touches (458 rushes, 356 catches): 45 negative plays, plus 23 sacks and 16 kneel downs.

By position
Running back: 471 touches (422 rushes, 49 catches). 36 negative runs, 2 negative reception.
Wide receiver: 206 touches (4 rushes, 202 catches). 3 negative receptions, 1 negative run.
Tight end: 106 touches (1 rush, 105 catches). 2 negative receptions.
Quarterback: 31 touches (31 rushes, 0 catches), 1 negative run.

By way of comparison, here’s a look at how things broke down through 14 games last season.

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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

12.18.12 at 4:37 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 14 games of the 2012 regular season:

WR Wes Welker: 100 catches on 151 targets
WR Brandon Lloyd: 67 catches on 114 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 53 catches on 75 targets
TE Aaron Hernandez: 45 catches on 70 targets
RB Danny Woodhead: 33 catches on 45 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 21 catches on 32 targets
WR Deion Branch: 13 catches on 25 targets
RB Shane Vereen: Eight catches on 13 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: Six catches on 13 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: Three catches on four targets
TE Daniel Fells: Three catches on nine targets
RB Brandon Bolden: Two catches on two targets
TE Kellen Winslow: One catch on two targets
WR Donte’€™ Stallworth: One catch on two targets
TE Visanthe Shiancoe: Zero catches on one target
TOTALS: 356 catches on 558 targets

By position
Wide receiver: 202 catches on 324 targets
Tight end: 105 catches on 161 targets
Running back: 49 catches on 73 targets

By way of comparison, here’s a look at targets through 14 games last season.

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Pressure Points: Which Pats defenders have done best job getting after QB in 2012?

12.18.12 at 4:02 pm ET
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Through 14 games, the Patriots have 55 quarterback hits and 29 sacks as a team (tied for 20th in the league). Based on gamebooks, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2012 season:

Quarterback hits
DE Rob Ninkovich: 12
DE Chandler Jones: Nine
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: Seven
DE Jermaine Cunningham: Six
LB Jerod Mayo: Five
DL Justin Francis: Four
LB Brandon Spikes: Four
DE Trevor Scott: Three
DL Vince Wilfork: Two
DL Brandon Deaderick: One
DL Kyle Love: One
CB Kyle Arrington: One

Ninkovich: 8.5 (51 yards)
Jones: 6 (33 yards)
Mayo: 3 (24 yards)
Hightower: 3 (16 yards)
Cunningham: 2.5 (21 yards)
Scott: 2.5 (4 yards)
Wilfork: 2 (30 yards)
Love: 1.5 (4 yards)

Through 14 games last season, the Patriots had 76 quarterback hits and 33 sacks.

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What NFL history says about (un)importance of Nos. 3 and 4 playoff seeds

12.18.12 at 3:22 pm ET
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With their loss to the 49ers on Sunday night, the Patriots slipped from the No. 2 to No. 3 seed in the AFC, a setback with obviously considerable implications. New England would have to win an additional playoff game to reach the Super Bowl, and the team would then have to win a road game in the divisional round in order to advance to the AFC championship game with a Super Bowl berth on the line.’s Christopher Price argues that, given the likelihood that the Pats can’t overtake the Broncos (who play a couple of easy marks in the last two weeks of the season), New England would be well served to lose its way down to the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.

But what does history say? Have teams with the No. 3 seed done any better than those with the No. 4 seed? For that matter, how big is the difference in the second and third seeds in terms of the likelihood of emerging from a conference and reaching the Super Bowl?

Here’s a look at the seeds of the 44 teams to reach the Super Bowl since 1990, when the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format:

No. 1 seeds – 21 reached Super Bowl, 9 won

No. 2 seeds – 12 reached Super Bowl, 6 won

No. 3 seeds – 2 reached Super Bowl, 1 won

No. 4 seeds – 6 reached Super Bowl, 3 won

No. 5 seeds – 1 reached Super Bowl, 1 won

No. 6 seeds – 2 reached Super Bowl, 2 won

As one might expect, the No. 1 seeds have been the most frequent conference representatives in the Super Bowl, emerging almost one out of every two times (47.7 percent). And, as might also be expected, the No. 2 seed is the second most frequently represented, an unsurprising development given the opportunity to host a divisional playoff game and, in years where the No. 1 seed gets upset, the AFC championship game as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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