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Boomer Esiason on D&C: Patriots best team in AFC

12.03.12 at 9:43 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan and talked about the Patriots’ victory over the Dolphins, the AFC playoff picture, the Jets’ quarterback situation and more news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots defeated the Dolphins 23-16 and clinched the AFC East title. Although the victory wasn’€™t the most overwhelming, like the past two games, Esiason said coach Bill Belichick likely was happy with another win.

‘€œI would say that if I were a fan of the Patriots I would be happy about my defense getting some headlines, especially late in the season like this,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œBecause you know this offense is going to put up points. ‘€¦ As Bill Belichick will tell you, and as any coach will tell you, even Rex Ryan would say it this morning, ‘€˜I don’€™t care how we win, I don’€™t care what it looks like, just give me one more point than the other team just so I can at least breathe a little bit easier when I wake up this morning.’€™ ‘€

The Patriots are on the heels of the Texans and play them next Monday night. Esiason said that if the Patriots can pull out a win over the Texans next week, they put themselves in a position to capture the No. 1 seed.

‘€œIf they can beat the Texans, go on to win the rest of their games, and the Texans somehow slip up against the Colts because they have to play them twice in the last three weeks, now all of a sudden you have a tied record, and by virtue of the fact that the Patriots beat the Texans on Monday night next week, they could be the No. 1 seed, which is really amazing when you think of all the stuff we’€™ve been through thus far to this point,’€ Esiason said.

In Sunday’€™s game, the Patriots rushed for 11 yards on seven carries in the first half. But in the fourth quarter, they turned it on when they needed. The Pats embarked on a drive of 77 yards that took 16 plays, 12 of which were runs, for a field goal that gave them a two-possession lead. Despite the loss, Esiason said the Dolphins defense played well.

‘€œI give the Dolphins a lot of credit,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œThey played a tough game last week against Seattle. A lot of people, including myself, thought that they would probably lose that game, but somehow they figure out a way to win. Now, all of a sudden, they come into this game knowing that they’€™re playing one of the best teams in football. They have to raise their level of play, they have to raise their focus during the week to get ready to go against Tom Brady. It’€™s a great challenge. ‘€¦ For the most part, I thought the Dolphins defense supported themselves very well yesterday.

“Ultimately, what’€™s going to happen, the best team is going to come out and they’€™re going to come out and they’€™re going to win nine times out of 10. And put these two franchises on the field and that best team is always going to be New England, and the reason that it’€™s going to be that way is because of the quarterback that’€™s behind center for them.’€

After Sunday’€™s games, there are three AFC teams at 9-3: the Patriots, Ravens and Broncos. Esiason said he would rank the Patriots first among those teams, but cautioned that the return of Ben Roethlisberger could give the Steelers an edge.

‘€œI thought about three weeks ago that it would be the Broncos and the Texans that would be heading to the AFC championship game, now I’€™m not so sure,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œSimply because, injuries start to take hold. The Texans lost two linebackers who are two of their most important players. And their quarterback in Matt Schaub is not as good as what’€™s going on in Denver and certainly with the Patriots. ‘€¦ If Pittsburgh can get Ben Roethlisberger back and that defense can play like it has for the past three weeks, now all of a sudden you have to put them in the mix. In my estimation, how I would rank them would probably be: Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Steelers, in that order. I think the Ravens are a little bit outside of that, simply because their defense is probably the worst of the four.’€

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Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, boomer esiason, Mark Sanchez

Vince Wilfork: ‘The offense is allowed to have a bad game here and there’

12.02.12 at 10:11 pm ET
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Coming in to Sunday’s game in South Florida, Vince Wilfork was well aware that the Patriots led the NFL in scoring coming in at 37 points per game. He was also well aware that as great as the offense is, Tom Brady won’t be able to put up video game numbers every single game. Eventually, the defense will need to carry the day.

On Sunday, the defense, specifically the defensive line, contained Reggie Bush and pressure Ryan Tannehill, limiting them to 16 points and just one touchdown.

Brady was relatively pedestrian on Sunday, connecting on just 24-of-40 passes, one touchdown, one interception and a 74.8 rating. The offense could only muster 11 yards on seven carries in the first half. But the defense forced three fumbles, recovered one and held the fort.

‘€œIt’€™s good, especially when the offense struggled, it’€™s a chance for us to showcase how special we are on defense,” Wilfork said. “We went out there, we didn’€™t give up a lot of points today. We had some three-and-outs, made some plays. The offense is allowed to have a bad game here and there. They’€™ve done so much for us. The one thing we want to do around here is always play as a team. The three units, the special teams, offense and defense, if one is slacking the other two help pull them up.

“When you have two and three slacking, that’€™s when you get problems. But today, the offense got it together, they started running the ball more. And as a defense, I love to see my offense run the football because I know we have great running backs and we have great blockers. We face those guys all the time in practice and when we started running the ball, I was excited to see from my end so I was kind of pumped up on the sideline.’€

Wilfork said they knew the Dolphins, ranked seventh in the league against the run, would make life difficult.

‘€œAbsolutely, we knew this team was going to be tough,” Wilfork said. “This team is 5-6 but they shouldn’€™t be. We knew we’€™d have our hands full’€¦ and they’€™d come out fighting. Everything they gave us, we knew they were going to give us. We knew it was going to be pretty tough coming down here. So, I think everybody kept their composure, stayed poised through the ups and downs, never got too high or too low. We knew they’€™d make a run at some point, make some plays at some point. We just knew we had to counter that and just get back to playing good fundamental football if that happened.

‘€œI think we just stuck together, and in certain situations we played well, and it helped us a lot today.

‘€œYou move on in stride. We know we accomplished something but in the grand scheme of things, we still have a long season to play. The upcoming week is going to be very tough with Houston. We know how important it is to get back on track and stay grounded, and push forward one game at a time, so that’€™s what we’€™re doing.’€

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork

Vince Wilfork shows his love and appreciation for Bianca: ‘Every ball I get, she gets – it’s not mine’

12.02.12 at 6:57 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork is a good family man and a great husband. He makes sure he and wife Bianca WIlfork share everything.

Bianca is unquestionably the most visibly supportive spouse among all Patriots players.

She’s at every game, home and on the road.

And Vince has a great way of showing his appreciation.

Any time he gets a fumble recovery – or an interception as was the case in 2011 – his first course of business is to head to the sidelines and hand the ball to his bride. Such was the case Sunday when Trevor Scott broke through in the second quarter and stripped Ryan Tannehill of the ball. The ball popped up in the air and right at the feet of Wilfork, who hopped on it for his team-leading fourth fumble recovery.

‘€œEvery ball I get, she gets. It’€™s not mine,” Wilfork said. “It’€™s like I make plays for her. She was excited, I was excited, and the team was excited. This defense, we’€™ve done a real good job of getting turnovers. We had a couple on the ground today but we didn’€™t get. We walked away with one. But it’€™s always good to get them and I was just in the right place at the right time, and I was pretty excited about it.”

TV cameras confirmed this fact as they showed vince flipping the ball to Bianca in the front row of seats behind the Patriots bench.

Read More: Bianca Wilfork, New England Patriots, nfl, Vince Wilfork

Poll: Who was MVP of Patriots’ division-clinching win?

12.02.12 at 4:38 pm ET
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Wes Welker had 12 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Hernandez had eight grabs for 97 yards. Trevor Scott had a strip-sack and finished with two sacks. Stevan Ridley finished with 71 yards on 19 carries and was huge on the game-clinching drive.

Tom Brady was sacked four times but still finished 24-of-40 for 238 yards while Ridley went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season. Welker finished with 12 catches on 18 targets and 103 yards, his 28th career 100-yard receiving game and his 16th with at least 10 catches. Hernandez added eight grabs on 13 targets and 97 yards.

Who was the Patriots MVP Sunday?

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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots, nfl, Stevan Ridley

Key moment: Patriots drive towards a division title

12.02.12 at 4:24 pm ET
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The Dolphins had just cut the Patriots lead to 20-13 after a 33-yard Dan Carpenter field goal with 8:50 left in the fourth quarter.

The Patriots offense had been spotty in the second half after putting up 17 points in the first half, including a three-and-out to start the second half.

But the Patriots were dominant when they needed to be, orchestrating a 16-play, 77-yard drive and most importantly, consuming 7:18 of game clock and exhausting Miami’s final two timeouts.

The Patriots called 12 runs on the drive, including Tom Brady‘s fall to the ground on the final snap before Stephen Gostkowski‘s 21-yard field goal that gave New England a 23-13 lead.

Stevan Ridley was huge, carrying the ball 10 times for 46 yards on the drive.

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, Stephen Gostkowski, Tom Brady

Snap Judgments: Patriots clinch AFC East title with victory over Dolphins

12.02.12 at 4:13 pm ET
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The Patriots escaped from Miami with a 23-16 win over the Dolphins Sunday afternoon in South Florida. With the victory, New England clinched the AFC East title, it’s 10th since 2001.

New England jumped to a 17-3 lead but held on down the stretch — the Dolphins would get to within a touchdown in the fourth quarter — but the Patriots would put the game out of reach with an impressive fourth-quarter drive that saw them grind out the clock in style. A 16-play, 77-yard sequence that took 7:18 ended with a 20-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski and effectively ended things for New England.

The Patriots were led by quarterback Tom Brady, who went 24-for-40 for 238 yards with one touchdown and one pick. Stevan Ridley added 19 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown, while Wes Welker had 12 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. (Per ESPN, Ridley went over 1,000 yards for the season, and became the fourth Patriots’ running back to reach 1,000 yards in 12 games — Curtis Martin and Jim Nance each did it twice, while Corey Dillon did it once.)

On the other side of the ball, Ryan Tannehill was 13-for-29 for 186 yards, Reggie Bush had 15 carries for 64 yards and Brian Hartline finished with 5 catches for 84 yards

Here are a few notes on what happened:


‘€¢Despite a fourth-quarter drop in the end zone, Wes Welker was immense against his old team, coming away with one of his best games of the season. He was at his best on the first drive of the second quarter for the Patriots, when he sparked a 75-yard drive by coming up with 38 yards on his own, including a seven-yard touchdown pass that came on a neatly executed slip screen that saw the receiver walk into the end zone.

‘€¢Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was also big, consistently taking on two defenders and opening things up for the linebackers to be able to make plays. He came away with a fumble recovery, which was the result of a strip sack from Trevor Scott. (Scott played well in place of Jermaine Cunningham.

‘€¢Linebacker Jerod Mayo also gets points in the thumbs-up column for plastering Tannehill on a delayed blitz midway through the fourth quarter that forced Miami to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown. (The field goal cut New England’s lead from 20-10 to 20-13.)

‘€¢The New England running game struggled early on against Miami’s run defense, but it was impressive down the stretch, as Ridley (who finished the game with 71 yards) did an excellent job helping move the chains and doing the bulk of the work in what might have been the best fourth-quarter drive of the season for the Patriots. Ridley accounted for 46 of the 77 yards on the final drive.


‘€¢The Patriots stalled out in the red zone in the fourth quarter, getting the ball all the way to the Miami 2-yard line. But the Dolphins were equal to the task, stopping New England and forcing them to settle for a 32-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. (Gostkowski also missed on his first field-goal attempt of the game, a 49-yarder.)

‘€¢The group struggled through injury, but the Patriots’ offensive line had one of its worst games of the season. Against an elite run defense (Miami entered the game seventh in the league in run defense), New England was unable to get much going on the ground through the first three quarters. Meanwhile, the Dolphins sacked Brady four times, tied for the most sacks allowed in one game by the Patriots this season. Right guard Dan Connolly left with a back injury, and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was clearly hobbled as well.

Third-quarter notes: Patriots 17, Dolphins 10

12.02.12 at 3:25 pm ET
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The third quarter is done, and the Patriots have a 17-10 lead. Here are some third-quarter notes:

‘€¢At the start of the third quarter, neither offense was able to get much of anything going. New England opened the third quarter on a down note, with just its 12th 3-and-out of the season. Miami couldn’t do anything on its ensuing possession — thanks in part to the work of linebacker Brandon Spikes, who came away with his second pass breakup of the game on the Dolphins’ series.

‘€¢On the Patriots’ second series of the third quarter, Tom Brady was almost snapped in half on a sack by Miami’s Cameron Wake, who easily beat a hobbled Sebastian Vollmer off the edge and managed to crush the quarterback on what might have been the hardest hit on Brady all year.

‘€¢The two teams traded punts again — on Miami’s next possession, the Dolphins got to the New England 49, but decided to punt the ball away on 4th and 1. The Patriots couldn’t get out from underneath the shadow of their own goalposts, and Zoltan Mesko punted the ball back to Miami with just under four minutes left in the quarter.

‘€¢The best offensive sequence of the quarter came on the final drive, as New England managed to get to the Miami 35-yard line as the quarter expired. There were a couple of very nice connections to Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez and a nice pickup by Danny Woodhead to help move the chains.

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