|12.10.10 at 4:42 pm ET|
The Bears have ruled linebacker Piso Tinoisamoa out for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Here’s their complete injury report:
Did Not Participate
LB Piso Tinoisamoa (knee) Out
LB Nick Roach (back) Questionable
|12.10.10 at 4:35 pm ET|
The Patriots have three players who did not participate in Friday’s practice who have been ruled as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bears in Chicago. Here’s the complete injury report:
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot) Probable
|12.10.10 at 4:10 pm ET|
According to a league source, Patriots rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes has been suspended by the NFL for four games for violating the league’s banned substance rule. The suspension was first reported by the Boston Herald.
Spikes reportedly will not appeal the suspension and hopes to return for the playoffs. Spikes’ suspension begins immediately. He will be eligible to return to the Patriots’ active roster on Monday, Jan. 3 following the team’s final regular season game on Jan. 2 against the Miami Dolphins. Spikes is eligible to participate in all playoff games.
Spikes issued a statement through the team on the incident: ‘I’ve been contacted by the NFL and informed that I will be suspended four games for the detection of an illegal substance in a drug test. The substance was a medication that I should have gotten clarification on before taking. It was not a performance enhancer or an illegal drug. The integrity of the game is very important to me. I understand the league’s ruling and apologize to my teammates, the fans and the Patriots organization for this mistake.’
The Patriots selected Spikes with the 62nd overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft after his four-year career at Florida. Spikes is currently fourth on the team with 61 tackles this season. This is the second incident this season that has brought unwanted attention on Spikes ‘ earlier this year, it was discovered that he was involved in a sex tape.
|12.10.10 at 12:14 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes was again missing from the open portion of Patriots practice on Friday as the team held its final outdoor practice on a cold and blustery Gillette Stadium field in sweats and shells.
Spikes also missed Thursday’s practice and the team said the absence was “not injury” related. Safety Patrick Chung returned to practice on Friday after also missing with a non-injury related issue. Also missing Friday were defensive linemen Mike Wright (concussion) and Myron Pryor (back) and defensive back Jonathan Wilhite (hip).
Newcomer Chevis Jackson – wearing No. 41 – was in attendance and took part in practice. Jackson, who turns 25 Saturday, was brought in for depth in the secondary with the lingering injury to Wilhite.
|12.10.10 at 12:04 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In an effort to bolster depth in their defensive backfield, Patriots coach Bill Belichick confirmed Friday morning before practice that they’ve brought in defensive back Chevis Jackson. Belichick said they would have a move “later on” Friday. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite has been battling a hip injury for several weeks and was again missing from practice on Friday.
Jackson, who was at practice Friday wearing No. 41, was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the 3rd round (68th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. He recorded his first career interception on a 95-yard return for a touchdown on Nov. 9, 2008. Jackson played most recently with the Jacksonville Jaguars, signing with them on Oct. 18.
|12.10.10 at 10:29 am ET|
Following their exhilarating, 45-3, romp over the Jets last Monday, the Patriots continue what appears to be an endless string of games against top NFL competition, this time against the Bears, who are chasing a playoff berth of their own. And it appears that the weather outside will be “frightful” at Soldier Field late Sunday afternoon.
Anyway, here are a bunch of nuggets to help get you ready for the action:
* – Last Monday, the Patriots scored over 30 points for the fourth week in a row, tying the longest such streak in the NFL since New England’s nine game streak from late-2006 through mid-2007.
* – The three points allowed by the Patriots Monday night snapped a streak of 12 consecutive games allowing 14 or more. During that streak, they allowed an average of 25.0. The 301 total yards allowed were the fewest by the Patriots in 13 games and snapped a five game streak allowing 400 or more.
* – Strength vs. Strength: The Patriots have the league’s best overall passing rating (+2.30 the way I keep them, basically net yards per pass play compared to the league average, adjusted up for touchdowns and down for interceptions). However, the Bears have the best overall DEFENSIVE passing rating (-1.87). New England leads the league in touchdown passes (27) while Chicago has allowed the second fewest (9).
* – How’s this for some good red zone passing? Over the last six games when in the red zone, Tom Brady is 19-for-25 (76 percent) with 10 touchdowns, no interceptions, and no sacks. For the season, the Pats lead the NFL in red zone completion percentage (67 percent) and touchdowns (19), but they’ve also allowed the most red zone sacks (8).
* – If the game is close in the fourth quarter (within seven points either way), the Bears have passed quite well in those spots so far in 2010, posting a rating (the way I keep them… see below) of +2.42, third best in the league. Chicago has been in more close contests than New England, putting up 55 attempts in late and close situations, compared to just 27 for the Patriots.
* – The Bears have allowed 45 quarterback sacks and lost 299 yards to sacks this season, both league high figures. The Pats’ defense has just 21 sacks (29th) for 132 yards (28th).
* – New England and Tom Brady lead the league in LOTS of passing splits, but one important one is in third and fourth down passing (combined). Their +3.53 rating in those situations is tops and is built on 73 percent completions with 11 touchdowns (tied for the most with Green Bay and New Orleans). In addition, only 3.4 percent of their gross passing yards have been lost to sacks, the third lowest percentage in the league in those spots:
0.8% – Giants
2.6% – Colts
3.4% – Patriots
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|12.09.10 at 9:55 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Watch the above video and one minute, 15 seconds in, you’ll hear the famous words of Bears broadcaster Jeff Joniak – now immortalized on the NFL Films promo on the NFL Network – as he describes the first of two touchdown returns by Devin Hester against the Denver Broncos in Week 12 of 2007 season.
That was the season after the Bears rode the ridiculous speed of Hester and their overwhelming defense to a Super Bowl XLI appearance against the Indianapolis Colts. That was the Super Bowl that began with Hester returning the opening kick-off for a touchdown. Hester hasn’t had a kick-off return for a TD since only because the Bears now use him primarily in their passing game and as a punt returner. He has taken two of those to the house this season.
In Week 6 against Seattle, Hester returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown – his second TD on a punt return this season and 13th kick return TD in his career, tying Brian Mitchell for most in NFL history. Mitchell needed 223 games. Hester is playing in his 73rd NFL game this Sunday. Those don’t even include his legendary 108-yard return against the Giants at the Meadowlands in 2006 and the 92-yarder opening Super Bowl XLI.
These 2010 Bears, winners of five straight and owners of a 9-3 mark, are even more dangerous. They certainly have more speed than ever. Just ask the Patriots and their defensive backs.
Corners Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington and safeties Jarrad Page, Patrick Chung and James Sanders will have their hands full – and their feet running – trying to keep up with Johnny Knox and Matt Forte. Knox and Forte have joined Hester as weapons for their new strong-armed quarterback Jay Cutler.
“Of course, Knox and Hester are home run hitters,” Pats coach Bill Belichick said. “Those guys can strike from anywhere in a hurry. They’ve got a lot of things that are a problem.”
Don’t forget Danieal Manning, who took over kick return duties when Hester became a wide receiver.
“Obviously they’ve got a strong return game with Hester and Manning,” Belichick said. “Those guys can score from anywhere; [they're] extremely dangerous ‘ really a problem in the return game.”
“They’re extremely fast, explosive big-play guys so we have to contain those guys,” Sanders said.
Belichick has been relying more and more on his big-play secondary, going with nickel, ‘Big Nickel’ and dime (6 DB sets) to produce big turnover numbers over a four-game winning streak. He’ll certainly be relying on them this week and safety Jarrad Page knows it.
“With Knox and Hester, they’re two of the fastest guys in the league and then Forte has shown his speed with plays over 60 yards, over 50 yards, he’s got a few of them,” Page said. “We definitely see that on film and took notice of it.”
But it’s not just the receivers. Cutler – banished to Chicago by Josh McDaniels before the 2009 season – has shown his mobility time and time again. Sometimes, he’s paid a price as Ndamukong Suh drilled him from behind last week and took a $15,000 fine for a hit to the back of the head as Cutler was scrambling.
“He’s a very athletic guy,” Sanders added. “There’s times on film where he’s running away from DBs so we’re going to have to keep him in the pocket and limit his scramble plays. And when he does get out of the pocket, we’re going to have to cover these receivers because they do a good job of uncovering and getting open down the field.”
While Hester garners all the attention in highlight videos, Belichick couldn’t help but show Forte’s 89-yard run after a simple screen pass against the Lions last weekend. It was the third play of at least 60 yards this season for the all-everything running back.
“A guy catches a ball, he takes a five-yard play and turns it into 30 or 40 [yards], and that’s tough for a defense,” Belichick said. “When you’re playing defense, you want to try and keep things in front of you, keep things contained and those guys that can take those kinds of plays and break out of them and break into big plays are tough.
“Forte is a great example. In the Lions game, there’s a minute to go in the half, they’re on their own 10-yard line, threw a screen pass. I’m sure they weren’t expecting to score. I’m sure they were just expecting to get a first down and it was 90 yards for a touchdown. Those are the kinds of plays that break a defense in half when you can’t tackle. Hester, Knox, they’re very dangerous with the ball in their hand. Cutler, that guy outruns most defensive backs. You see backs get the angle on him, [but] they can’t get him; he’s too fast.”
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