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Video: Chris Price, Dr. Laurie Katz discuss Vince Wilfork’s Achilles injury

10.09.13 at 8:15 am ET
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WEEI.com’s Chris Price is joined by Dr. Laurie Katz of Newton-Wellesley Orthopedic Associates to talk about Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork‘s torn Achilles.

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Did Patriots run away from what was working Sunday?

10.08.13 at 7:52 pm ET
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So much has been made of the transition game in the Patriots passing game this season. The Patriots have run 347 plays this season, with 140 runs and 207 passes, a ratio that is almost exactly 60-40 in favor of the passing game. And it’s been a productive rushing attack. Through five games, the Patriots have been averaging 135.8 yards per game on the ground and 4.2 yards every time they run the ball.

But a closer look indicates a fundamental change in the team’s approach. It’s not how much you pass or run, but when.

On Sunday in Cincinnati, the Patriots had the ball 12 times. They ran on first down six times, including their opening three drives, four of their first five and six of 10 before being forced to pass on their final two possessions when they were trailing. Even without Stevan Ridley (knee) and Shane Vereen (wrist) at their disposal, the Patriots showed a remarkable commitment to the run game. LeGarrette Blount had his number called to open each of New England’s first three series.

In those runs, Blount had carries of four, two and 10 yards. After the game, Logan Mankins indicated that the Bengals did a great job sniffing out the play-action pass the Patriots were trying to set up with the run. But should the Patriots have been looking to more than just setting up the pass with Blount and Brandon Bolden?

On Tuesday, during his conference call with reporters, Bill Belichick was asked to explain why the Patriots seemed to drift away from the run game in the second half when they were reasonably successful in the first half.

“Overall, there might have been some opportunities for us to call a few more runs,” Belichick said. “Some of those plays, at times, some of them are checked and [we] took what we felt was the best look or the best play. Of course at the end of the game, situationally we wound up throwing the ball quite a bit there the last couple series. We’€™re just trying to find the best matchups and trying to do what we thought was best to be able to move the ball efficiently.”

The Patriots ran the ball 14 times as opposed to 20 passes in the first half.

Even on their final drive, one of their most successful plays was a run — a 12-yard burst through the showers — by Bolden to the Cincinnati 42.

“We did have some plays in the running game,” Belichick added. “I thought we had some opportunities in the passing game too. Could we have gone in a different ratio or percentage? We probably could have but we didn’€™t really feel that bad about what we were doing, we just didn’€™t do it well enough.”

The Patriots even tried to punch it in on the ground in their ill-fated goal line chance in the fourth quarter that resulted in only a 19-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.

The Patriots finished with 82 yards rushing on just 18 carries for a 4.6 yards per carry average. What will happen Sunday vs. the Saints? Stay tuned.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots

Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 5: Not a good week for anyone on offensive side of ball

10.08.13 at 6:10 pm ET
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This preseason, we debuted the Tom Brady Confidence Index, a by-the-numbers look at the comfort level the quarterback had with the rest of the skill-position players when it came to the passing game. Because of the reaction we got, we decided to make it a semi-regular feature and expand it to include overall offensive touches (receptions and carries, with more weight to carries in clutch situations) and how comfortable the quarterback might appear to be with some of his teammates when it came to trusting them in certain situations.

As always, we rate each of the skill-position players and their relationship/comfort level with Brady on a scale of 0 (Taylor Price) to 100 (Wes Welker) on their body of work to this point in the season.

(Disclaimer: While most aspects of this blog deal in mathematical specifics as it relates to football, this entry is more of a tongue-in-cheek approach to Brady and how he relates to the rest of the New England offense. Bottom line? Don’€™t take the rating system too seriously.)

WIDE RECEIVER JULIAN EDELMAN: 83 (last week: 91)

Season stats: 36 catches, 50 targets, 354 yards, two touchdowns

From a numbers perspective, it wasn’€™t the best afternoon for Edelman, who finished with two catches on seven targets for 35 yards against the Bengals. (That’€™s why his number dipped a bit, falling from 91 to 83.) At the same time, his work over the first four games is a clear indication that the quarterback still has plenty of faith in Edelman, who is now one catch from tying his career-high for receptions in a season. He has twice as many catches as Kenbrell Thompkins, who is second on the team with 18 receptions, and he’€™s the first pass-catcher on the team to reach 50 targets. (For some perspective, Wes Welker was at 38 catches and 52 targets through five games last season.) Things figure to change when Rob Gronkowski returns, but providing Edelman stays healthy, there’€™s no reason to think he won’€™t continue to be one of the most important elements of the New England passing game.

WIDE RECEIVER DANNY AMENDOLA: 72 (last week: inactive)

Season stats: 14 catches, 23 targets, 159 yards

Amendola made his return after suffering a Week 1 groin injury against the Bills and was able to provide some positive moments in the passing game, including a 21-yard reception down the middle in the second quarter that turned out to be the second-longest play from scrimmage all afternoon for the Patriots. He ended with four catches on nine targets for 55 yards. Not great, but certainly better and more consistent than just about any of the other New England receivers against the Bengals.

RUNNING BACK BRANDON BOLDEN: 70 (last week: 70)

Season stats: 14 rushes, 92 yards, 6.6 YPC; 12 catches on 15 targets for 84 yards; 1 negative reception

Bolden did a lot of things well — he accounted for 64 yards from scrimmage, working as an occasional change-up back and option in the passing game out of the backfield. But he had a bad drop on a screen pass early on that set the Patriots back, which leaves him at the same 70 where he checked in last week. One thing worth keeping an eye on: with Shane Vereen on the shelf for the next several weeks because of a wrist injury, Bolden is close to being on pace to join the 40-catch/40-carry club. Over the last five seasons, Kevin Faulk (58 catches and 83 rushes in 2008) and Danny Woodhead (40 catches, 76 carries in 2012) also turned the trick. That’€™s some good company.
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Josh McDaniels: Overall offensive execution was lacking against Bengals

10.08.13 at 3:50 pm ET
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Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels acknowledged Tuesday the “overall execution” on offense in last Sunday’s loss to the Bengals “wasn’t what we wanted it to be.”

Asked specifically about the number of drops — and whether the inclement conditions played a role — he said it wasn’t just the drops.

“We had some throws that were a little off, and we had some guys that tried to make some tough catches and didn’€™t come up with them — and that’€™s football,” he said. “We certainly don’€™t accept it and we’€™re not going to just stand there and not try to improve and get better at it every week.

“There’€™s no magic potion or formula you use, and you certainly try to give them every opportunity during the course of the week to practice the things that they’€™re going to do on Sunday, and then hopefully those happen to carry over.”

McDaniels was also asked about some of the play-calling, specifically the decision to not run the ball much down the stretch against the Bengals — New England called just six carries in the second half.

“You want to stay balanced on something like that, as much as you can, and I know that some of the situations that come up in the game certainly skew those numbers,” he explained. “We had had two two-minute situations there in the second quarter and then a few situations certainly towards the end of the game where we’€™re in much more of a pass mode. But our intention is never to really get out of whack in terms of run/pass ratio on any of those things, and certainly that’€™s something that I will always try to maintain a good balance on. If I ever get out of balance, I definitely want to try to bring it back to as close to 50/50 or somewhere near there as I can.”

Here are some of the rest of the highlights from the Q&A:
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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

10.08.13 at 1:27 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. Five weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2013:

RB Stevan Ridley: 50 (47 rushes, 3 catches), 7 negative plays, 1 fumble lost
RB LeGarrette Blount: 46 (46 rushes, 0 catches), 4 negative plays, 1 fumble lost
WR Julian Edelman: 38 (2 rushes, 36 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 26 (14 rushes, 12 catches), 1 negative reception
RB Shane Vereen: 21 (14 rushes, 7 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 18 (0 rushes, 18 catches)
QB Tom Brady: 17 (17 rushes, 0 catches), 10 sacks, 10 kneeldowns, 2 fumbles lost
WR Danny Amendola: 14 (0 rushes, 14 catches)
WR Aaron Dobson: 13 (0 rushes, 13 catches), 1 negative reception
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 4 (0 rushes, 4 catches)
FB James Develin: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Leon Washington: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)
TE Matthew Mulligan: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
WR Josh Boyce: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)

Some offensive notes: Overall, the Patriots were in the shotgun for 33 of their 60 snaps against the Bengals, a rate of 55 percent — a season high. (That was coming off a 24 percent rate the week before against the Falcons, which was a season low.) Overall, the Patriots have been in shotgun 43 percent of the time this season. By way of comparison, New England was in shotgun 44 percent of the time through the first five games of 2012. ‘€¦ The Patriots didn’€™t run any no-huddle against the Bengals, marking the third time since the start of the 2012 season they didn’€™t use no-huddle in a game and the second consecutive contest. On the year, the Patriots have operated out of a no-huddle on 17 of their 347 plays from scrimmage, a rate of five percent. That’€™s a sizable step down from the last two years when they averaged 25 percent during the regular season. ‘€¦ New England has run 347 offensive plays this year in four games. Not counting kneeldowns, 23 have been for negative yardage. The Patriots ran 60 plays Sunday, and five were for negative yards — four sacks of Brady and one negative reception for Dobson. ‘€¦ Through five games in 2012, the Patriots were scoring an average of 33 points per game. This year, they’re averaging 19 points per game through the same stretch.

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the offensive breakdown through five games last year.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 6: Patriots plummet to No. 9

10.08.13 at 1:04 pm ET
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The Broncos steamroll their way to the No. 1 spot after another dominant performance from Peyton Manning and the offense. John Elway‘s undefeated team has looked unstoppable and is a lock for the top spot again next week as the No. 32 Jaguars travel to Denver in Week 6.

Only three undefeated teams remain. The Saints (2) and Chiefs (8) both missed the playoffs last year but look primed to return after starting 5-0. Meanwhile, the Jaguars (32) and Giants (30) continue to search for a win. The two teams have a combined 31 turnovers.

Upsets were the theme in Week 5. The Seahawks (3), Patriots (9) and Falcons (20) all drop in the rankings after losing games in which they were favored. There could be more shakeup looming with the Packers (7) traveling to Baltimore (11) and the undefeated Saints heading to New England this Sunday.

1. (2) Broncos (5-0) — Not much more can be said about the Broncos offense. It’s not too early to start talking about an undefeated season. Unless you put up at least 40 points, you’re not beating Denver. The 46 points-per-game average is 16 points higher than the second-place Cowboys. 

2. (3) Saints (5-0) —  Drew Brees threw a career-high 19 interceptions last year. The Saints defense was historically bad. This is a completely different team. New Orleans is winning close games, protecting the football and playing great defense.

3. (1) Seahawks (4-1) — The Seahawks went 2-for-12 on third down Sunday against the Colts. There’s no reason for major panic in Seattle, however, as injured starting tight end Zach Miller should be ready to go next week and Percy Harvin‘s return is on the horizon. That will dramatically help the offense.

4. (4) 49ers (3-2) — Protect the football, dominate defensively and pound the ground game. That’s been the Niners’ formula for success the last couple of years.  Not many teams can win a game when the starting quarterback completes just six passes.

5. (6) Colts (4-1) —  Andrew Luck‘s resiliency and poise in big situations has been extremely impressive. He now has nine game-winning drives in his young career.

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Read More: Drew Brees, Geno Smith, NFL Power Rankings, Peyton Manning

Pressure Points: Which New England defenders have done best job getting after QB this season?

10.08.13 at 12:59 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the 2013 season, we’€™ll provide a look at the Patriots pass rush numbers. While sacks can be overrated, when evaluated as part of a bigger picture that includes quarterback hits and quarterback pressures (the latter courtesy of Pro Football Focus), it should provide a good picture as to which defenders are consistently able to get after the quarterback. Through five games, the Patriots have 13 sacks (tied for 14th), 32 quarterback hits and 51 quarterback hurries. Based on the official NFL game books and PFF, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2013 season:

Quarterback sacks

DL Chandler Jones: 3.5 (24.5 yards)
DL Tommy Kelly: 2.5 (14.5 yards)
DE Michael Buchanan: 2 (15 yards)
DL Chris Jones: 1.5 (13 yards)
LB Jerod Mayo: 1.5 (5 yards)
DL Joe Vellano: 1 (13 yards)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 1 (5 yards)

Quarterback hits (per NFL game books)

DE Chandler Jones: 9
DL Tommy Kelly: 6
DE Rob Ninkovich: 5
DE Michael Buchanan: 4
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
DL Chris Jones: 2
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 1
DL Vince Wilfork: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1
DL Joe Vellano: 1

Quarterback hurries (per PFF)

DE Rob Ninkovich: 15
DE Chandler Jones: 14
DL Tommy Kelly: 6
DL Joe Vellano: 4
DL Vince Wilfork: 3
DE Michael Buchanan: 2
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 2
DE Jake Bequette: 1
LB Brandon Spikes: 1

For comparisons sake, here’s a look at the pressure totals through five games last season.

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