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Josh McDaniels on red zone woes: ‘We can do better, and we have to’

10.15.12 at 1:30 pm ET
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As ugly as the passing yardage allowed was in the final box score from Sunday, the stat that sticks out like a sore thumb to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was further down.

The Patriots were just 1-for-6 in the red zone. They were inside the 20 offensively six times and came away with just one touchdown, a 1-yard fade route from Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez.

After the TD, the Patriots missed on their final five chances in the game, including the botched play just before halftime that ended with the Patriots going for a touchdown with six seconds remaining, only to have Brady throw the ball to no one in the back of the end zone for an intentional grounding call and the end of the half.

“Each possession is different,” McDaniels said Monday during a conference call. “Anytime you go down there and you end up with any negative type play, it can really hurt your opportunity to have success at the end of the drive, in terms of scoring touchdowns. We were down there six times and didn’t score enough. That’s obviously an area that we can do better in, have to do better in and get better in quickly.”

In the second half, the Patriots took their first drive and marched the ball down to the Seattle 17 but had to settle for a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The second shot ended with Brady getting the Pats down to the Seattle 6 before trying to force a pass for Wes Welker. Earl Thomas picked off the pass, taking away the chance for any points that would have — as it turned out — sealed the game.

On the final chance — on their next possession — the Patriots got the ball down to the Seattle 17 before settling for another field goal.

“If we get the opportunity six chances down there to score touchdowns and only come away with one, certainly that’s not good enough,” McDaniels said. “There were a lot of different situations. Each drive was a different scenario there. We had a few third-and-shorts we didn’t convert on. We ended up with the [end of half] drive and were hoping for seven or three there and didn’t get it.

“But overall, I think your execution down there is certainly at a premium and whatever you’re calling is really at a premium. You have to do everything right down there because you really have no margin for error. We can do better, and we have to.”

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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots, nfl

Inside the numbers: Patriots chase history with woeful pass defense

10.15.12 at 1:05 am ET
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The good news for the Patriots is that their pass defense a year ago fairly could be characterized as horrible — particularly at the start of the season — yet the team advanced to the Super Bowl. The bad news for the Patriots is that, to date, this year’s secondary appears to be worse, at least statistically.

A year ago, after all, there was some measure of bend-don’t-break operating in the Pats secondary at the start of the season. There were grounds for concern based on the staggering volume of yards that New England permitted last year, but ultimately, the Pats limited opponents to 10 passing touchdowns while picking off eight passes in the first six games to limit the damage, allowing the team to get off to a 5-1 start.

This year? There’s been a lot of breaking. The Patriots’ 24-23 loss to the Seahawks highlighted what seems like a considerable vulnerability, chiefly, an inability to defend adequately against downfield passes.

Consider: Russell Wilson entered Sunday having thrown five touchdowns while getting picked off six times. On Sunday, he threw for three touchdowns and wasn’t picked off. He also completed six passes of 20 or more yards — including the game-winning 46-yard bomb to Sidney Rice in the final two minutes — after not having completed more than three such passes in any of his first five games this year.

It would be one thing if getting shredded by the rookie was an aberration. But to date, the Patriots’ struggles to shut down the passing game appear to be an eye-opening trend that teams undoubtedly will try to continue to exploit going forward.

Here’s a look at the brutal start by the Patriots’ passing defense: Read the rest of this entry »

Wes Welker: ‘You have to be able to put it away’

10.14.12 at 9:05 pm ET
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What should’ve been entertaining talk about one of the great streaks of his career and another chance to poke fun at his head coach turned into Wes Welker trying to explain how the explosive Patriots offense suddenly went cold in a 24-23 shocking loss to the Seahawks in Seattle.

The Patriots put up over 300 yards of passing in just over two quarters of football. Welker, himself, had seven catches on eight targets in the first half from Tom Brady. He had 102 yards of receiving and a 46-yard touchdown pass under his belt as the Patriots went to the locker room with a 17-10 lead.

That lead grew to 23-10 on a pair of Stephen Gostkowski field goals but the Patriots certainly had the sense that they were leaving way too many points on the field.

There was the blown opportunity from the Seattle 24 with 40 seconds left in the first half that ended with Brady taking the first of his two intentional grounding calls in the game, as the Patriots got greedy and turned down the sure field goal and looked into the end zone. There were the two Brady interceptions in the second half, one coming in the red zone. And there was the second intentional grounding near midfield that forced the Patriots into third and long and eventually, a punt.

For a team that prides itself in being the very best offense in the game, they were an unacceptable 1-for-6 in the red zone, with an incompletion, an interception and three field goals to go along with Brady’s one-yard TD pass to Aaron Hernandez.

Now, the stat they’re going to hear all week and in their sleep is four points, the combined margin in New England’s three losses this season. With a chance to beat the Cardinals at home, Gostkowski hooks a 42-yard field goal wide left in the final seconds. Leading the Ravens, 30-21, in the fourth quarter, the Ravens find a way to score the final 10 points and beat New England at the gun on a disputed field goal.

And now Sunday, a rookie quarterback throws a pair of fourth-quarter TDs as Brady and the Patriots offense can’t convert key first downs and protect a 23-10 fourth-quarter lead.

“We talk about playing a good 60 minutes of football and we seem to come up a little bit short,” Welker said. “These close games like this, especially when you have the lead in the fourth quarter, you have to be able to put it away. We weren’t able to do that today.”

Welker finished with 10 catches and 138 yards, becoming the first Patriots receiver since Randy Moss in 2007 amass four straight games of 100 yards receiving. But instead of talking about that, Welker and the Patriots are wondering how and why they are 3-3.

“Right now, it’s really frustrating,” Welker said. “We just have to get back to work and really work on these things and make sure we’re pushing through and win the games in the end.”

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, Randy Moss, Tom Brady

Who’s to blame for Patriots collapse in Seattle?

10.14.12 at 8:08 pm ET
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Who is most to blame for the Patriots' loss in Seattle?

  • Patriots secondary (47%, 433 Votes)
  • Tom Brady (27%, 247 Votes)
  • Patriots' play-calling/coaching (26%, 240 Votes)

Total Voters: 919

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Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, Seattle Seahawks, Tom Brady

Snap Judgments: Patriots shocked by Seahawks

10.14.12 at 7:27 pm ET
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The Patriots were shocked by the Seahawks Sunday afternoon in Seattle, as New England held a fourth quarter lead but couldn’t finish off the Seahawks, who posted the 24-23 win over the Patriots.

New England quarterback Tom Brady, who struggled in the rain for large portion of the contest, finished 36-for-58 for 395 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. But it was Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson who stole the show, engineering a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives to help the Seahawks post the victory. The Wisconsin product ended up going 16-fot-27 for 293 yards with three touchdowns in the win.

Here are a few quick notes:


‘€¢As was the case three times in the last four games — with the Buffalo game being the lone exception — the Patriots flamed out down the stretch. New England had a 23-10 lead midway through the fourth, but had to sweat it out down the stretch and ultimately ended up losing the game because of their inability to close. It’s becoming a recurring theme for this team, which is now tied with the Jets for first place in the AFC East with New York coming to Foxboro next weekend.

‘€¢There were issues all around, but there were several times in the fourth quarter where it appeared that the Patriots were playing not to lose instead of to win. There was tentative play on both sides of the ball as New England struggled in all aspects of the game down the stretch. It was a team loss for the Patriots.

‘€¢Defensive back Kyle Arrington struggled in coverage early. In the first quarter, Wilson hit on a 50-yarder down the middle to wide receiver Doug Wilson, beating Arrington in man coverage. Later on the same drive, Wilson and Baldwin hooked up on a 24-yard pass and throw for a touchdown at Arrington’s expense. (It was the first first-quarter touchdown of the season allowed by the Patriots.) Arrington was sent to the sidelines soon after that, and was only seen in packages with multiple defensive backs.

‘€¢Brady struggled with his accuracy at several points throughout the afternoon — at one point, Erik Scalavino of Patriots Football Weekly had him for six underthrown passes through the fist three-plus quarters. Much of that was likely due to the rainy conditions, which usually mean slippery footballs.

‘€¢In hindsight, the mismanaged clock at the end of the first half for the Patriots was really unforgivable, particularly in a tight game. After Seattle botched a punt at the end of the first half, New England had the ball in the Seahawks’ red zone, but the Patriots were unable to punch it in. Brady tried to fling it toward the end zone with six seconds left, but was called for intentional grounding. The Patriots’ chances of trying a late field goal were wiped from the board, as the penalty necessitated a 10-second runoff, and subsequently, the end of the half. A missed opportunity for New England.


‘€¢The Patriots were able to pile up gobs of yardage in the passing game utilizing Wes Welker (10 catches, 138 yards, one touchdown), Brandon Lloyd (six catches, 80 yards) and Rob Gronkowski (6 catches, 61 yards). Welker in particular had a tremendous game. Seattle defensive back Brandon Browner delivered an absolutely hellacious — but completely clean — hit on Welker on a seven-yard out route late in the second quarter. It was a shot that would have left most on the sidelines for an extended stretch, but four plays later, Welker was back on the field. (It looked like Welker got drilled in the chest.) The slot receiver would go on to haul in an 11-yard reception from Brady to keep the chains moving on third down.

‘€¢The New England run defense did a terrific job bottling up Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, with linebacker Brandon Spikes dictating the tempo for much of the afternoon — he delivered a great shot on Lynch on Seattle’s first play from scrimmage at the start of the third quarter, busting right up the middle and tackling him for a four-yard loss. Lynch finished with a season-low 41 yards on 15 carries.

‘€¢There were other positive aspects to the New England defense as well. Rob Ninkovich, who spent most of the game at linebacker (with Dont’a Hightower on the shelf) combined with defensive end Chandler Jones to really do a good job getting after Wilson. Jones had a pair of sacks, and Ninkovich was in the Seattle backfield for much of the afternoon. Linebacker Jerod Mayo and Ninkovich forced fumbles on the afternoon.

Fourth-quarter recap: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23

10.14.12 at 7:20 pm ET
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The fourth quarter is done. Here are a few quick points from the final frame of action:

‘€¢New England had the ball and a 13-point lead midway through the fourth, but again, the Patriots could not close. As was the case three times in the last four games — with the Buffalo game being the lone exception — the Patriots struggled to finish off an opponent. In the end, it cost them. The Seahawks had a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, with the first coming on a Russell Wilson-to-Braylon Edwards play midway through the fourth. That was followed by a Wilson to Sidney Rice scoring connection with 1:18 left in regulation to give Seattle a lead it would not relinquish.

‘€¢Part of the reason the Seahawks were able to come back was the fact that Brady was a little sloppy. He tossed his second pick of the afternoon on New England’s first drive of the fourth quarter, with those one coming when defensive back Earl Thomas picked off a pass in the end zone intended for Wes Welker and brought it all the way back to the 20-yard line. Brady struggled with accuracy at times throughout the afternoon — it could be in large part because of the slippery conditions. (Erik Scalavino of Patriots Football Weekly had him with six underthrown balls through the first three-plus quarters.)

‘€¢On the following drive, Seattle wide receiver Sidney Rice tossed a pass to Golden Tate, but Pat Chung crashed into Tate, drawing a costly 40-yard pass interference flag and giving the Seahawks some life. However, the defense was able to bail out the team once again — linebacker Jerod Mayo forced a fumble with a hit on tight end Zack Miller and collected the ball on the turnover. (It’s the 10th fumble recovery for the Patriots in the last three games.)

‘€¢After the turnover, the Patriots cashed it in with a 35-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski, putting the capper on an eight-play, 53-yard drive and making it 23-10 with 9:25 left in regulation. On the series, there was a 22-yard pass play to Woodhead where the wee running back picked up several yards after the catch. In addition, there was a nifty 23-yard along the New England sideline to Brandon Lloyd.

‘€¢The Seahawks answered with a gutty series of their own, maneuvering into the New England red zone and going for it on 4th and three from the New England 10-yard line. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson lofted one for the end zone. Veteran wide receiver Braylon Edward was able to haul in the pass, despite a defensive pass interference call on cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. That cut New England’s lead to 23-17, and set the stage for the Seahawks late heroics.

Third-quarter recap: Patriots 20, Seahawks 10

10.14.12 at 6:22 pm ET
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The third quarter is done in Seattle. Here are a few quick notes.

‘€¢Linebacker Brandon Spikes delivered another great shot on running back Marshawn Lynch on Seattle’s first play from scrimmage at the start of the third quarter, busting right up the middle and tackling him for a four-yard loss. The Patriots followed that up with another sack on rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, as linebacker Rob Ninkovich flushed him out while defensive end Chandler Jones cleaned things up, bringing him down for his fifth sack of the season, a five-yarder that would eventually lead to a Seattle punt. (Overall, it was a great quarter for the New England defense, as the Seahawks had just two first downs in the quarter, and they came on back-to-back plays.)

‘€¢On the ensuing series, the Patriots answered with an eight-play, 48-yard drive that ended with a 35-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. The highlight of the sequence was a 27-yard connection to tight end Daniel Fells that got the Patriots to the Seattle 19. Four plays later, Gostkowski banged home the field goal that gave New England a 10-point lead. (The Patriots also got a key seven-yard pickup on a third and 6 when running back Danny Woodhead delivered a great second effort to reach the first-down marker.)

‘€¢Late in the third, quarterback Tom Brady tried to float one down the seam to wide receiver Deion Branch, but Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman made a nice play to pick the ball off. It was just the second interception of the season by Brady, and put a stop to a drive that would have effectively ended the game for New England. The Seahawks couldn’t do anything with the gift, but it was a missed opportunity for the Patriots’ offense on that drive, and it broke a string of 179 pass attempts without an interception for the New England quarterback.

‘€¢Early in the third quarter, the Patriots announced that running back Brandon Bolden left the game with a knee injury — his return is questionable.

‘€¢Through three quarters., the Patriots have limited Lynch to 29 yards on 12 carries.

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