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Setting the windy scene from Gillette

10.31.10 at 1:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots will be looking for their fifth straight win today in windy conditions at Gillette Stadium in the return of Randy Moss as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.

Of course, all eyes at the beginning of the game will be on the Minnesota sideline when the Vikings’ offense first takes the field. Will Brett Favre start and be under center and where will Moss lineup on offense in his first set of snaps against the Patriots defense since practice before the Miami Dolphins game on Oct. 4?

The word is Favre will attempt to play, extending his NFL-record games played streak to 292. Favre suffered two breaks in the area of his left ankle last Sunday night in a 28-24 loss at Green Bay. Favre wore a walking boot until taking the field for the first time in practice on Friday, where he was limited.

Deion Branch (hamstring) and Pat Chung (knee) are the two big question marks on the injury front. Both were limited on Friday in practice and both are considered questionable for today. Both are expected to be active and play but their injuries on the first truly brisk, chilly day of the season bear close watching.

Bother were lightly jogging and doing high leg raises with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash along the Patriots sideline about an hour and a half before kickoff.

The wind figures to be a significant factor, with a breeze howling out of the north at 15-20 MPH, with gusts up to 30 MPH. Temperatures will start in the lower 50s and fall as the Patriots will play their first home game of the year under the lights by the time halftime rolls around.

The Patriots are playing their first home game on Halloween, having posted a ghoulish 2-5 road record in seven previous games on the scariest day of the year.

Other notes:

The Patriots are on an amazing regular season run at home. They are 3-0 this season. 8-0 last season and won their last home game in 2008. That adds up to a 12-game streak. Of course, that doesn’t include one somewhat important hiccup – the 33-14 loss to Baltimore last Jan. 10 in the first round of the playoffs.

Tom Brady hasn’t lost at home since Nov. 12, 2006 against the Jets, a run of 23 straight regular season wins, second only to – appropriately – Brett Favre, who won 25 straight for the Packers at Lambeau Field between 1995 and 1998.

Read More: Brett Favre, Deion Branch, minnesota vikings, New England Patriots

Five Final Thoughts on Patriots-Vikings

10.31.10 at 12:28 pm ET
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With kickoff looming, here are 10 final thoughts on Patriots-Vikings:

1. You’€™re fooling yourself if you think Brett Favre doesn’€™t start. And by the way, it was a savvy move by Favre telling ESPN that he feels like he’€™s ready to play. That way, it’€™s Brad Childress who takes the fall as The Guy Who Stopped The Streak. As I Tweeted earlier this week, the relationship between the coach and quarterback speaks to the raging dysfunction within the organization.

2. I’€™m kicking myself that I didn’€™t include this in the 10 things to look for, but it was initially Tweeted by Evan Silva of Pro Football Talk and then retweeted by our buddies at Pro Football Focus: ‘€œGood news Percy Harvin: Patriots vulnerable to slot receivers. Slot WRs have led the opposition in receiving against NE in 4 straight [games].’€

3. Fascinated to think about the reaction that both Favre and Randy Moss get both pre and postgame from the Gillette Stadium crowd. Gut feeling is that Favre gets booed and mocked heavily coming in and out the tunnel, while Moss hears loud cheers early and often. It’€™ll also be interesting to see what sort of reaction both draw coming off the field from players and coaches. In a region where postgame handshakes are analyzed like the Zapruder Film, the scene after the field and in the tunnel will likely be talked about for a few days.

4. The Patriots aren’€™t going to run a whole lot of Sunday, but they have to get more production out of the running game than they did last week. Doesn’€™t matter how many yards they get ‘€” that 4.0 yards per carry average is the magic number. If the crew of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Sammy Morris can hit that, it’€™ll be all good for New England.

5. Final thought: I think the Patriots win this thing, pulling away in the second half. Moss will catch a touchdown pass, but New England’€™s going to do a good job bottling up Adrian Peterson (which means holding him under 100 yards). It’€™s going to be close, but a late touchdown or turnover from the Vikings is the difference: Patriots 24, Vikings 17.

Read More: Final Thoughts, Patriots, vikings,

Report: ‘Obvious’ Brett Favre will start

10.31.10 at 12:10 pm ET
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According to a tweet from Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, it’s apparent that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre will start against the Patriots Sunday afternoon.

Wrote Fowler at approximately 11:45 a.m.: Been calling around about Favre. Heard from at least one person that it’s becoming “obvious” Favre will start.

Favre previously said that his injured left ankle has shown significant improvement and that he expects to start, but Vikings coach Brad Childress has been non-committal. Favre also said he isn’t sure that he will last the entire game, and that he’s prepared for Childress to insert backup Tarvaris Jackson if Favre struggles.

Read More: brad childress, Brett Favre, Tarvaris Jackson,

Bill Belichick still fears Purple People Eaters

10.31.10 at 10:42 am ET
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FOXBORO — When he looks at the film of the Minnesota Vikings, Bill Belichick doesn’t see Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page and Gary Larsen and the “Purple People Eaters” that devastated NFL offensive lines in the 1960s and 70s.

But he does see Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, Ray Edwards and, of course, Jared Allen.

And while this group – a much-heralded group coming into the season – ranks a measly 30th in the NFL in sacks with six through six games, Belichick sees what a lot of others don’t. This Vikings front four can still pressure the quarterback and cause match-up nightmares for the offensive line.

“Definitely, it’€™s one of the best pass-rushing teams in the league,” Belichick explained on Friday. “They’€™re all a problem, really, but [Kevin] Williams, [Jared] Allen and [Ray] Edwards in particular, those three guys. I think Edwards is a very underrated player. Allen, we all know what he is. Kevin Williams, we all know what he is. Their linebackers complement their pressure well with [E.J.] Henderson and [Ben] Leber and [Chad] Greenway.

“Those guys are fast and they get pressure in a different way, but they are fast in the line of scrimmage. If you have to commit a blocker to them, if you have to commit one of your linemen to them, then you’€™re basically singled up across the board on the other four guys, as opposed to having a three-on-two or some kind of three-on-two situation, whether you’€™re three-on-two inside, or three-on-two to one side or the other if nobody blitzes. Once they blitz a guy, then whoever blocks that linebacker leaves you singled across the board. I think their pass rush is very good. They get a lot of pressure.”

And in the three years before this one, Jared Allen has been the single-most feared pass rusher in the NFL, collecting sack totals of 15.5, 14.5 and 14.5 dating back to his final season with Kansas City in 2007. This season he has one. Eventually, one would think, he’s going to break out. Pats left tackle Matt Light is hoping that’s not today.

Edwards and Allen on one the ends and both Williams form the middle of the line. Double-teams are tricky but necessary to prevent one of the Williams from getting through the middle of the offensive line and blowing up the run game. And if the middle of the line disintegrates, Tom Brady becomes a vulnerable target.

Let the coach explain.

“I think the double team guy on that is [Kevin] Williams. That’€™s the problem: if you don’€™t help the guard with Williams then the guard is really isolated on Kevin Williams because the center is tied up on Pat Williams and the tackles are tied up on the ends, whichever guy it is Allen or Edwards. And so a lot of single opportunities come from Williams, but it’€™s hard to double him with a center because the center is on the same side as the guard.

“So you either have to do it with the tackle and that leaves you with a back or a tight end or whatever the combination is, it leaves you with somebody else out there on Allen and Edwards, which is a problem. Or if you leave your tackle on them, then it leaves your guard singled on Kevin Williams, which [is] a problem. That’€™s kind of the idea of the over and under front ‘€“ to have a player in that three-technique who’€™s got a nose tackle on the other side of the center and an end on the other side of the tackle, so that those guys have to kind of block their respective guys and then you have the three-technique singled on a guard.

Many times this year Belichick has moved Vince Wilfork out to the end to try and overpower the opposing tackle. Well, Belichick pointed out that in Kevin Williams the Vikings have the luxury of doing just the opposite, which could mean a long, long day Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal and Dan Connolly.

“Guards generally play in, obviously, a more confined space than the tackles do, so if you have a guy that’€™s really a good defensive end playing tackle, like you have with [Kevin] Williams, then you really have an end on a guard instead of an end on a tackle. He’€™s a tall guy with good range, real good quickness. He’s powerful. He could easily play defensive end, but he’s matched up the guards and that’€™s a tough matchup.”

Read More: Alan Page, Bill Belichick, Carl Eller, minnesota vikings

Matt Light on The Big Show: ‘I’m a cross-dresser at heart’

10.29.10 at 5:37 pm ET
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Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light joined The Big Show on Friday to talk about Halloween, the challenges faced by linemen, and the upcoming game against the Vikings. The Pats offensive line had a rough game last week in San Diego and Light joined the program to explain just what went wrong: ‘€œYou know a win’€™s a win’€¦We went on the road and got a win against a good team. ‘€¦The rest of it needs a little work.’€

Following are some of the highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, visit The Big Show audio-on-demand page here.

What are you going as for Halloween?

I’€™ll be wearing my princess outfit. I’€™m a cross-dresser at heart.

On last week’€™s game:

We obviously didn’€™t get off to a real fast start, like you want to when you play on the road. We talked about that last week. ‘€¦You know, a win’€™s a win. However you look at it, saying they gave it to us, or we tried to give it to them. However you want to build it. We went on the road and got a win against a good team. So that’€™s the best part of the whole thing. The rest of it needs a little work.

Was there a breakdown in communication in the protection?

I think it was more just on an individual basis. Like myself, I got beat a couple of times. It should have never happened. It comes down to technique and doing everything right, and being able to stay focused and do those things on an individual basis. Versus some scheme thing they did, really they line up and play the way that they play; they don’€™t really disguise it too much. Yeah, they are going to press you in, they are going to bring some things at you like any other team does, but really it came down to the individual matchups.

What exactly are the lapses?

It’€™s just not doing the right things. For offensive linemen, that’€™s a multitude of things. You’€™ve got to have good footwork, you’€™ve got to have good hand placement. You’€™ve got to be quick off the ball and you can’€™t let guys run off the edge, like what happened to me early in that game. Sometimes when those things happen, it becomes a mental thing. Now you start over guessing things, whereas had you gone out and played your game and done what you needed to do, you wouldn’€™t have put yourself in the position. Really it’€™s not ever just one thing. There’€™s usually just a number of things that happen when you’€™re not having success and that’€™s kind of what we fell into, especially early on. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jared Allen, Matt Light, minnesota vikings, New England Patriots

Patriots guard Stephen Neal on D&H: San Diego, Vikings, and Halloween

10.29.10 at 5:27 pm ET
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Patriots guard Stephen Neal stopped by The Dale and Holley Show this Friday to talk about returning to San Diego, facing the Vikings defense, and Halloween. The Patriots play the Vikings this week in Randy Moss‘€™ return to Gillette Stadium and he brings a fearsome defensive line with him: ‘€œWe’€™ve worked hard this week and hopefully we’€™ll be ready. You got to pack a big lunch and bring it to work that day, that’€™s for sure.’€

Following are some highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview visit The Dale and Holley Show audio-on-demand page here.

We dropped the ball last weekend: Didn’€™t you go to high school in San Diego? What was it like going back to your hometown?

I did. It was really nice. The best two high school teams, they play in that stadium. Unfortunately, we never got close. So to get to play in that stadium as a professional and in front of all my family’€¦I mean, I got probably about 60 family members down there.

How many tickets did you come up with?

I came up with 45 tickets and a whole bunch of other people were able to purchase some.

Did you have to cash in some favors? Did you twist some arms?

You know what I did. I think the thing that helped me out the most is that I’€™m one of the oldest guys on the team so I have a little bit more seniority than I used to six, seven years ago.

It sounds like the bully taking the lunch money away from the kids in school. Did you just go take the tickets away from Devin McCourty?

There are just a lot of guys who aren’€™t from the west coast. I put in the order and they had the amount. I think everybody got the tickets they were requesting. I think Chung beat me out, I think he might have had like fifty tickets or something. He’€™s from the L.A. area also so he had a big amount too.

Steve, you’€™ve got to stop playing the game for nothing. You’€™re playing the game for free if you’€™re up in those numbers:

I don’€™t know how much longer I’€™ll be able to have my family watch me compete. It’€™s something special, especially my hometown. It was neat to get back there so it was awesome.

It was a strange game: As a lineman, is it difficult to realize what’€™s going on behind you and that there is a live ball on the field?

We were watching the hockey game last night. You can tell by how the crowd reacts what’€™s kind of going on. It’€™s similar to football. You sit there and you hear the crowd gasp a little bit. When you’€™re at home or on the road it means two different things, either there’€™s going to be a sack or it’€™s a long ball; someone’€™s about to score a touchdown or something. It’€™s kind of weird, you hear a little lull in the crowd and I always look around. I try to find a referee. If they didn’€™t blow the whistle and looking at the ball or something, finish that play, try to get on it. I mean, that’€™s a possession that can be challenged. Just try to finish the play no matter what. That’€™s something we try to work on situational football in every situation. No matter what, if the ball’€™s laying on the ground, you pick that up because you never know what could’€™ve happened behind you or anything. Just secure that ball whenever you can. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: minnesota vikings, New England Patriots, Stephen Neal, The Dale and Holley Show

Brett Favre officially ‘questionable’ Sunday for Pats

10.29.10 at 5:16 pm ET
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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has been officially ruled questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Favre suffered two breaks in his ankle during last Sunday night’s 28-24 loss at Green Bay. He returned to the field on Friday for the first time this week, doing away with the walking boot he had been wearing to protect his left ankle, opting instead to just wear protective tape over it.

Vikings injury Report for Friday:

Did Not Participate
S Jamarca Sanford (not injury related) Probable

Limited Participation
QB Brett Favre (foot/ankle) Questionable
T Chris DeGeare (ankle) Questionable
CB Lito Sheppard (hamstring) Questionable

Full Participation
DT Letroy Guion (hamstring) Probable
G Steve Hutchinson (quadriceps) Probable
C John Sullivan (calf) Probable
DT Pat Williams (quadriceps) Probable
S Husain Abdullah (concussion) Probable
CB Chris Cook (knee) Probable

Read More: Brett Favre, minnesota vikings, New England Patriots, nfl
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