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Boomer Esiason on D&C: Packers coach Mike McCarthy missed opportunity

12.20.10 at 9:46 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Patriots’ 31-27 victory over the Packers and other NFL news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Esiason said he was impressed with Packers quarterback Matt Flynn, who exposed the Patriots’ problems on defense. “The young man played a fantastic football game. I don’t know how else to put it,” Esiason said. “But it kind of shows you the Patriots’ Achilles’ heel. To me, if they’re playing against a team that has a good pass offense and they can’t get any pass rush ‘€” no matter who that quarterback is, especially if it is the Green Bay Packers, with that great group of wide receivers ‘€” they can move the ball down the field. I think we saw yesterday they had trouble getting off the field on third down. I’m sure it was just frustrating for Patriots fans to watch it.

“But at the end of the day, really what you saw is you saw a team that was led by a veteran quarterback who could make the big plays in the big spots. I never really was worried that the Patriots were going to lose the game. I just was more amazed at how well Matt Flynn did play for that 58-minute stretch.”

The Packers had a chance to put the Patriots in a deep hole in the fourth quarter, but on fourth down at the 1-yard line, they played it safe and kicked a field goal. Esiason questioned the Packers coach for that call. “To me, Mike McCarthy gave in right there,” he said. “I thought with all my heart that with the way that they were running it, they way that [John] Kuhn was getting yardage, the way that Matt Flynn was standing tall in the pocket, that they were going to go for it. I was thinking that he probably went into this game saying, ‘When I get the opportunity, I’m going to go for it.’ And you know what? When the opportunity knocked, he decided to go against I believe what his pregame plan was.”

In other NFL action Sunday, the Giants blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost to the Eagles on a punt return for a touchdown by DeSean Jackson with no time left. “This thing was just an absolute and total meltdown,” Esiason said. “And you know, guys, it really could be an organization-changer if the Giants don’t come back and play well the next two weeks.”

Esiason said it will be interesting to see where the Giants go from here. “Either they respond, and Tom Coughlin keeps his job and the team responds to him and really puts forth a great effort. Or, it’s a collapse, and it will go down as one of the great collapses ‘€” or one of the worst collapses, however you want to look at it ‘€” in Giant history,” he said.

Added Esiason: “I was a part of that epic loss to the Dolphins in ’94 [the Dan Marino fake-spike game], and there’s never a day where it doesn’t seem like ‘€” during the football season, anyway ‘€” that I’m not reminded of it. And I remember how sick I felt that next day. I can’t even imagine how Matt Dodge, the punter, feels today for not punting that ball out of bounds.”

Read More: boomer esiason, Matt Flynn, Mike McCarthy, Tom Coughlin

Nuggetpalooza’s Boxscore Breakdown: Patriots vs. Packers

12.20.10 at 8:53 am ET
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A few quick statistical notes and observations from last night’s win over Green Bay:

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* – New England’s 19:12 time of possession was their lowest in any game since a 2004 loss at Pittsburgh (17:02). It was their lowest at home since they began tracking the stat in 1981, thirty seasons ago. Their previous home game low was 19:53 in a 31-30 loss to the Dolphins in 1999.

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* – The Patriots scored a touchdown in every quarter for the fourth time this season. It’s just the second season since at least 1997 that they’ve had four or more such games (they had six in 2007). In 2010, the Patriots are the only team with more than two such games. It was just the third time since the start of the 2007 season that Green Bay has allowed a touchdown in every quarter.

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* – New England has scored in 21 of their last 22 quarters.

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* – The Patriots allowed three or more passing touchdowns for the 17th time since the end of the 2002 season. It’s incredible to me that they are now 12-5 in those games, one of only three teams that have a winning record in such games in that span:

Patriots (12-5)
Colts (10-4)
Panthers (7-6)

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* – New England got two TD catches from tight end Aaron Hernandez last night, the third time this season that a Pats’ tight end has had multiple touchdown catches in a game. Since coming into the league in 1960, the Patriots had never had three such games in a season.

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* – After allowing 30 total first downs over the last two weeks, the “bend but don’t break” Patriots defense allowed 26 to the Packers last night. It was the fifth time in New England’s last 16 games that they’ve allowed 26 or more first downs. Prior to that, they allowed 26+ just once in their previous 71 games.

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* – The Packers had 26 first downs to the Patriots’ 14 last night, the first time since 2005 that an opponent has “out-first downed” the Patriots by more than 10 in a game. It was just the third time since 1991 that New England won such a game and the first since 2003.

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* – Green Bay had five drives of 10 or more plays last night (New England had none). The Patriots entered the game having allowed 26 such drives in their first 14 games, the most in the league.

Tom Brady on Dan Connolly: ‘Never seen anything happen so slow in my life’

12.20.10 at 2:04 am ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Tom Brady always looks to offensive linemen such as Dan Connolly to give him time to pick apart defenses and put points on the board.

Sunday night, just before the first-half two-minute warning, Brady watched from the sideline in stunned amazement as the 6-foot-4, 313-pound right guard gave the Patriots quarterback something totally unexpected ‘€” great field position.

Connolly went the extra mile ‘€” or at least 71 yards ‘€” when he returned Mason Crosby‘s kickoff to the Packers ’4-yard line, setting Brady up for a TD pass to Aaron Hernandez on third-and-goal.

To Brady, the kick was far more than a funny sideshow. It came after Matt Flynn found Greg Jennings for a 1-yard TD pass to make it 17-7, and Gillette Stadium was in stunned silence. The kick return jump-started the Patriots.

“That’s was the longest kickoff return ever,” Brady said. “I’ve never seen anything happen so slow in my life. It was an unbelievable play. I can never imagine anything like that happening in a game. That really was a big play in the game. If it happens, we have to take advantage of it. They won’t be kicking to him anymore, I can tell you that.”

Kyle Arrington had his own special return on Sunday night ‘€” a 36-yarder on his interception of Flynn with 12:04 left in the third quarter to put the Patriots on top, 17-14. He broke four tackles on his way to the end zone, but still, he thought Connolly’s return probably stole the show.

Unfortunately, Connolly could not detail what he saw on his own return because he suffered a head injury right around the same time he returned the kick. It was not clear if he injured himself on the return or on the subsequent offensive series that he took part in. He reported in as a tackle-eligible the play before Brady connected with Hernandez for the touchdown. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dan Connolly, Green Bay Packers, Kyle Arrington, Mason Crosby

Patriots/Packers postgame notes

12.20.10 at 1:02 am ET
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Courtesy of the Patriots, here are the postgame notes from tonight’s 31-27 victory:

BILL BELICHICK MOVES INTO SOLE POSSESSION OF 10th PLACE ON ALL-TIME WINS LIST
Bill Belichick improved to 175-99 (.639) record as a head coach, and with his 175th career win passed Mike Holmgren to move into sole possession of 10th place in all-time coaching victories, including both regular season and playoff games. Belichick holds a career regular season record of 160-94 and a career playoff record of 15-5.

PATRIOTS WIN 8th STRAIGHT AGAINST TEAM WITH RECORD OF .500 OR BETTER
Today’€™s win over the 8-6 Packers was the Patriots’€™ eighth straight when playing a team which currently has a record of .500 or better. Since falling to the 10-4 Jets on Sept. 19, the Patriots have defeated the 7-7 Dolphins (41-14), the 10-4 Ravens (23-20), the 8-6 Chargers (23-20), the 10-4 Steelers (39-26), the 8-6 Colts (31-28), the 10-4 Jets (45-3), the 9-4 Bears (36-7) and the 8-6 Packers (31-27).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL RAISED TO +20
The Patriots forced two Packers turnovers today and did not turn the ball over to raise their 2010 turnover differential to +20. The Patriots’€™ team record for best turnover differential in a season is +17, a record which was set in 2003. The Patriots improved to 11-0 this season when recording a positive turnover differential.

PATRIOTS EXTEND STREAK TO SIX STRAIGHT GAMES WITH 30+ POINTS AND NO TURNOVERS
The Patriots have scored at least 30 points without committing a turnover in each of their past six games to extend their NFL record. No other team in NFL history has had 30+ points and no turnovers in more than three straight games.

DAN CONNOLLY HAS LONGEST KICKOFF RETURN EVER BY AN OFFENSIVE LINEMAN
Dan Connolly returned a first-half kickoff 71 yards to the 4-yard line in the second quarter. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it is the longest kickoff return by an offensive lineman in NFL history. The previous longest kickoff return for a Patriots offensive lineman was a 27-yard return by G Stephen Neal on Nov. 30, 2008 vs. Pittsburgh. Connolly’€™s previous best was a 16-yard return vs. Miami on Nov. 8, 2009. Connolly’€™s return set up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez that cut the Packers‘€™ lead to 17-14.

BENJARVUS GREEN-ELLIS SCORES 12th RUSHING TOUCHDOWN OF THE SEASON.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored his 12th rushing touchdown of the season on a 33-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Green-Ellis’€™s 12 rushing touchdowns are tied for the third highest rushing touchdown total by a Patriots player. Green-Ellis is the first undrafted rookie to score 10 or more rushing touchdowns in a season for the Patriots. He is the eighth player in team history to record double digit rushing touchdowns in a season. Read the rest of this entry »

Bill Belichick: ‘We’ve got to play better than this, or our season won’t last much longer’

12.20.10 at 12:28 am ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick wasn’t happy with his team’s performance after they pulled out a 31-27 win over the Packers, Sunday night. After crediting the players for, “playing 60 minutes and fighting through some adversity,” Belichick added, “It certainly wasn’t one of our better games. Obviously I’ve got to do a much better job preparing the team. We couldn’t handle a lot of the basic things that they did. That was disappointing.”

He then added: “We’ve got to play better than this, or our season won’t last much longer,” he said. The win puts the Pats at 12-2 and they can clinch the Eastern Division title and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win or a loss by the Jets next week.

Belichick had few words of his praise for this team that fell behind 17-7 in the second quarter and had to rally in the fourth quarter to get the win. “Our performance was up and down all night,” Belichick said. One play that was definitely ‘up,’ was the kickoff return by guard Dan Connolly who returned a short kick 71 yards to the Green Bay  4-yard line. “We’ve been working on those,” Belichick said. “Alert play by Dan, but also by the blocking to get in front of him there and at least get him started.”

Belichick wasn’t happy with the penalties either. The Patriots were flagged seven times for 52 yards, including an illegal hands to the face penalty by Tully Banta-Cain that erased a late interception by Brandon Meriweather. Banta-Cain wound up sacking Packers quarterback Matt Flynn on the final play of the game to preserve the win.  Asked about Cain’s moment of redemption, Belichick said, “It’s good to win. We had a lot of penalties. These guys call the most penalties of any crew in the league and they call them. We knew it was going to be a tight game and it was.” For the record, Ed Hochuli was the referee Sunday night.

The coach added that Flynn’s play, who completed 24-of-37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns while subbing for Aaron Rodgers, wasn’t a surprise. “That’s the way we’ve seen him play,” Belichick said. “He played in preseason. He does a good job managing the game. He’s a good quarterback.”

In the end, Belichick noted that in a game of big plays, the Patriots made just a few more than the Packers. “We made some plays,” he said. “We made plays on offense. We made plays on defense. We made plays on special teams. We gave them up too. We gave up a lot of them. It starts with me.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dan Connolly, Packers, Patriots

Tom Brady Postgame: Packers ‘gave us all we could handle’

12.20.10 at 12:23 am ET
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It was a subdued Tom Brady who took the podium following his team’s 31-27 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. His answers suggested relief more than elation after the Patriots, led by Brady to a go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdown, improved to 12-2.

Brady praised the performance of the Green Bay defense while offering critical analysis of the execution by the Pats offense. New England was outgained by Green Bay, losing the battles in total yardage battle (369-249), first downs (26-14), third-down efficiency (58 percent to 40 percent) and nearly every other statistical category except for turnovers and points.

“They made it tough on us,” said Brady. “It’€™s a damn good defense. Real good secondary. Good defensive front. They gave us all we could handle tonight. Give them a lot of credit. They were very well coached. From the opening kickoff to the last play of the game, it took all 60 minutes. When we needed it, we made the plays. I’€™m glad we won.”

Brady was critical of the execution of the offense, which was outgained by a significant margin by the Packers.

“We didn’€™t do much to help ourselves for the entire game. There were so many long-yardage situations. Against a team like this, that’€™s something we talked about not doing,” said Brady. “I wish we as an offense could have stayed out there to get in a rhythm. Part of us not being on the field was our lack of execution. We need to go out there and execute better.

“I’€™m sure we lost the time of possession. I’€™m sure we lost field position. I don’€™t think we were great on third down by any stretch,” Brady continued. “It was really not a great offensive effort. The defense and special teams made some huge plays for us. That’€™s what we needed today.”

Here are the highlights from Brady’s postgame press conference:

What did you think of Dan Connolly’s return?

It was the longest kickoff return ever and the longest. I’€™ve never seen anything happen so slow in my life. It was an unbelievable play. … That really was a big play in the game. If it happened, we’€™ve got to take advantage of it. Danny made a head’€™s up play and was smart. They won’€™t be kicking to him anymore, I can tell you that. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Dan Connolly, Green Bay Packers, Tom Brady

Snap Judgments: Patriots 31, Packers 27

12.19.10 at 11:28 pm ET
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FOXBORO – In a game that saw the team with the best record in the NFL dramatically outplayed at times by a team with a quarterback making his first career start, the Patriots did just enough to survive a very game Green Bay Packers group and escape with a 31-27 win. (Recap.)

Tully Banta-Cain sacked Matt Flynn on the game’s final play at the Patriots 16-yard line to secure the win. The Patriots move to 12-2 on the season and are just a win away from clinching the AFC East and the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Dan Connolly: If not the play of the year for the Patriots, the 71-yard kickoff return by Connolly late in the second quarter has to rate at the top on the improbable scale. The Packers were trying to avoid Brandon Tate with a short kickoff, but it was Connolly who broke the big play, showing off what appeared to be 6.8 40 speed to bring the ball all the way to the Green Bay 4-yard line. The longest return by an O-Lineman in NFL history, it set up a Tom Brady two-yard TD pass to Aaron Hernandez.

Aaron Hernandez: The rookie tight end caught a pair of TD passes on Sunday, the second giving the Patriots a 31-27 lead with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter. The first-year tight end duo (Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez) now has 13 touchdown receptions.

Charles Woodson breaks out the hands of stone: Tom Brady put a floater right in the hands of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the first quarter, but Woodson somehow dropped a sure INT on second-and-17. The very next play, Brady found Deion Branch for 17 yards and the first down and then BenJarvus Green-Ellis found the end zone from 33 yards out to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead.

Kyle Arrington TD: It wasn’t the best of overall efforts for Kyle Arrington (he took a horrible angle on the John Kuhn third-quarter TD catch and had his struggles in coverage), but he picked off a third-quarter Matt Flynn pass and shook off four would-be tacklers to find the end zone from 36 yards out.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Onside kick: The Patriots were completely unprepared for the opening play of the game, as the Packers easily converted an onside kick. James Sanders and Rob Ninkovich were out of position, allowing Nick Collins to recover. The Packers were then able to put together an 11-play drive to lead to a field goal.

Matt Flynn: Remember Colt McCoy? Very similar stuff from Flynn on Sunday night, as the LSU product used his legs to gain time and make play after play. Sure, he threw a pick six to Arrington, but overall it was an extraordinarily impressive effort from Flynn in his first NFL start, as he finished 21-of-33 for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

Brandon Meriweather: Meriweather knocked Devin McCourty to the ground to allow James Jones to make an easy catch-and-run on a second-quarter 66-yard TD grab. It was another less-than-impressive performance from Meriweather, who also had a chance to make a play on Kuhn on his third-quarter TD catch but failed to make the tackle.

Penalties: The Patriots entered the game as the NFL’s fourth-least penalized team but looked anything but disciplined on Sunday night, picking up key flags on each Green Bay TD drive and having a promising second-quarter drive halted by a holding call against Alge Crumpler. Vince Wilfork hadn’t been flagged for a penalty all season but picked up a pair of penalties on Sunday. What appeared to be a game-icing pick by Meriweather was wiped out by a hands to the face penalty on Banta-Cain with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Meriweather, Charles Woodson, Dan Connolly
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