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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

10.08.13 at 7:45 am ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game after the first five games of the 2013 season:

WR Julian Edelman: 36 catches on 50 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 18 catches on 43 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 14 catches on 23 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 13 catches on 34 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 12 catches on 15 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 7 catches on 10 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 4 catches on 7 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 3 catches on 3 targets
FB James Develin: 2 catches on 2 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 1 catch on 6 targets
TE Matthew Mulligan: 1 catch on 1 target
TE Zach Sudfeld: 0 catches on 3 targets
RB Leon Washington: 0 catches on 1 target
RB LeGarrette Blount: 0 catches on 1 target
TE/OL Nate Solder: 0 catches on 1 target

By position’€¨

Wide receiver: 82 catches on 156 targets

Running back/fullback: 24 catches on 32 targets

Tight end: 5 catches on 11 targets

Other: 0 catches on 1 target

For comparisons sake, here’s a look at targets through the first five games of the 2012 season.

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Patriots re-sign Marquice Cole, release Ja’Gared Davis and Kanorris Davis

10.07.13 at 5:12 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Monday afternoon they have re-signed veteran cornerback Marquice Cole. In addition, they released safety Kanorris Davis and linebacker Ja’€™Gared Davis, who were both signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Saturday and played on special teams at Cincinnati.

Cole, 29, is a veteran of four NFL seasons with the New York Jets (2009-11) and the Patriots (2012). The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder originally joined New England as a free agent on March 19, 2012, and was re-signed by the team on March 20. Cole was released by the Patriots on Sept. 1, and re-signed by the team one day later on Sept. 2. After playing in the first three games, Cole was released on Sept. 27 and re-signed on Oct. 1. He was released again on Oct. 4.

Ja’€™Gared Davis, 22, was claimed off waivers by the Patriots on Aug. 28. The 6-foot, 238-pounder, was originally signed by the Houston Texans as a rookie free agent from Southern Methodist on May 10, 2013, and was released on Aug. 27, 2013. Davis was released by the Patriots on Aug. 31 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1. He played in 53 college games and recorded 301 total tackles, 20 sacks, four interceptions, eight forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Davis played on special teams last Sunday at Cincinnati.

Kanorris Davis, 23, originally joined the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Troy on May 3. The 5-foot-10, 207-pounder was released on Aug. 31 and was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1. Davis was signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster prior to the game at Atlanta and played against the Falcons on special teams. He was released by the Patriots on Sept. 30 and signed back to the practice squad on Oct. 2. Davis played as a linebacker in college, where he helped Troy win the Sun Belt Conference Championship in 2011 and 2012.

Read More: Ja'Gared Davis, Kanorris Davis, Marquice Cole,

Bill Belichick: No excuses when it comes to new faces

10.07.13 at 4:27 pm ET
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Bill Belichick has never been much of an excuse-maker, and so when he was asked Monday if the expectation levels for the 2013 Patriots might have been a little skewed considering all the new faces on offense, he didn’t pull any punches.

“I don’€™t know what you mean. Everybody that’€™s out there has been out there, played a lot of football for us this year. I’€™m not really sure what you’€™re referring to,” he said. “Other than Matt Mulligan, those guys have all been here, most of them for multiple years.

“We just didn’€™t overall offensively perform to the level that we did last week or that we’€™re capable of doing. I think everybody is accountable for that: the coaching staff, the players,” he added. “Again, I certainly give Cincinnati credit there. They have a good defensive front and they played well, but we have to do a better job than that. We put ourselves in too many long-yardage situations. We couldn’€™t convert in the red area and had some consistency running the ball but not nearly enough in the passing game, and not in any critical situations. We have to do better in all those areas. That’€™s all of us. I don’€™t think it’€™s any one guy or any one thing. I don’€™t know who the new faces are ‘€“ Matt Mulligan — but everybody else has been here all year or a lot longer than that.”

Here are a few of the highlights from his Monday morning Q&A:

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Rob Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo on M&M: ‘Frustrating loss for us’

10.07.13 at 12:36 pm ET
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Defensive end Rob Ninkovich and linebacker Jerod Mayo appeared on Mut & Merloni on Monday to discuss the Patriots’€™ defensive performance in the team’€™s 13-6 loss to the Bengals.

New England lost its first game of the season on Sunday. Much of the consternation surrounded the offense, which failed to score a touchdown and accumulated just 248 yards, in addition to turning the ball over twice.

The Patriots defense allowed just one touchdown, but it came in the fourth quarter, and it proved to be the game-winning points.

‘€œIt’€™s a frustrating loss for us as a defense, because you play well early in the game, you have some big stops and turnovers, you keep them from scoring,’€ said Ninkovich, who recorded three tackles and half a sack in the game.

New England forced Cincinnati into a pair of turnovers, and the defense sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton four times.

But the defense faltered on the most important drive of the game. At the end of the third quarter, the Patriots trailed 6-3 and had Cincinnati stuck in a third-and-15 from its own 2-yard line. Dalton pulled off the improbable, as he connected with wide receiver Marvin Jones for a 28-yard gain to move the chains.

The Bengals marched the ball up the field, and former New England running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis punched a touchdown in from a yard out.

“Obviously we didn’t play well enough,” Mayo said. “Our job is to go out there and hold them from scoring any points at all. Unfortunately they scored more than us yesterday. We had some good plays, but we also had a lot of plays where we just weren’t ready to go. That’s my fault. I’ve got to get the guys ready.”

Said Ninkovich: ‘€œWith us giving up 13 points, it was too much and we lost. I’€™m not one to make any excuses, so I think that we’€™re going to get better, we’€™re going to continue to progress as a defense the younger guys are going to continue to mature and get better.’€

One of those younger guys to show up on Sunday was defensive tackle Chris Jones, who filled in admirably for the injured Vince Wilfork. The rookie recorded 1½ sacks. Jones must continue to step up with Wilfork out for the season, and the other defensive tackle, Tommy Kelly, possibly sidelined as well with a knee injury.

‘€œYou don’€™t really have to communicate as much with those older guys because they kind of know the situation and they know kind of what to expect,’€ Ninkovich said. ‘€œBut the younger guys, you’€™ve just got to make sure that, ‘€˜Hey, expect this, play it this way.’ So you just kind of have more communication.’€

The Patriots play host to Drew Brees and the high-powered Saints offense next Sunday.

‘€œI think Drew, his track record kind of speaks for himself as far as the things he’€™s done in his career,’€ Ninkovich said ‘€œIt’€™s going to be a good challenge for us, and I’€™m happy we’€™re going to be playing at home and not the [Superdome], because that’€™s a hard place to play, kind of similar to Georgia when you’€™re down there playing the Falcons, similar atmosphere.’€

To hear the interviews, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

Read More: Andy Dalton, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Chris Jones, Drew Brees

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘Our offense has to at some point start pulling its weight’

10.07.13 at 9:52 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday to talk about Sunday’s 13-6 loss to the Bengals.

“It was just a day where we never really found any rhythm,” Brady said. “It seemed like every series we had a play that kind of knocked us backwards and got us off track. We just couldn’t string together enough good plays to get us in the end zone. I said after the game there’s very few games in the NFL where you can score six points and win.

“We just had one of those days where nothing really seemed to go right. We had plenty of opportunity out there. We just never took advantage of it. Pretty disappointing to lose the game. Hopefully we can learn from it and move forward this week and have our best game. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

The offense has struggled almost the entire season, but Sunday was a new low. The offense failed to do anything well.

“It was pretty poor all the way around,” Brady said. “There was not a lot of production. There was not a lot of production in the pass game, in the run game. We only had 250 yards offense, 1-of-12 on third down. If you can’t stay on the field because you’re not converting third downs, then you never really get a chance to balance the game out running the ball. We had some efficient runs, [but] because we sucked on third down we just really could never get them into a situation where they started playing defensively. They were able to really do whatever they wanted with us, and we played totally on their terms all day because of our lack of ability to convert on third down.”

The offensive line received a large share of the criticism, but Brady said the blame should be spread around.

“When you play as an offense and they’re able to dictate the tempo of the game on defense by getting off the field on third down, by really spinning their calls, mixing in their coverages, mixing in their blitzes, and we never do enough to get them out of their comfort zone, then they’re able to tee off on the quarterback,” Brady said. “I thought our offensive line hung in there. As a quarterback, as a skill group, we didn’t do enough to help the offensive line out to stop them from being able to really dictate their pass rush, dictate their blitzes whenever they wanted to. We had plenty of opportunities on third down to convert. We had some first- and second-down opportunities with a chance to gain more words than we did. Because we didn’t do that, they play their style and tempo.

“It was just an all-around poor performance by our offense. Our defense continued to bail us out and really be the strength of our team. But our offense has to at some point start pulling its weight.”

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Adam Schefter on D&C: ‘I just get a sense that we’ll see Gronk this week’

10.07.13 at 9:46 am ET
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ESPN’€™s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to talk Patriots and other news from around the NFL.

New England dropped its first game of the season Sunday as the Bengals defense stifled the Tom Brady-led offense in Cincinnati’€™s 13-6 win.

Brady went without a touchdown pass for the first time in 52 games. His poor performance (18-of-38, 197 yards, one interception) has reignited the debate that Bill Belichick and the New England organization has not surrounded him with enough weapons for a deep playoff run this season.

‘€œThe first week we say to these guys that Zach Sudfeld was supposed to be great, and Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce, and all these guys, and they say, ‘€˜No, no, no. It’€™s not just that easy to step in, you don’€™t surround Tom Brady with guys who are automatically going to play at the level of Wes Welker,’ that was their thinking,’€ said Schefter.

The Patriots cut the rookie undrafted tight end Sudfeld last week, and rookie wide receivers Boyce, Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, who were supposed to fill the void for the loses of former wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and Welker, combined to catch five passes for 65 yards against the Bengals.

Schefter mentioned Josh Gordon of Cleveland and Kenny Britt of Tennessee as wide receivers on the trade market, but noted the unlikeness of New England completing a trade before the Oct. 29 deadline.

‘€œI don’€™t think the Patriots wind up making a move for a wide receiver, I just don’€™t see that happening. Now, I’€™m not going to tell you that something doesn’€™t change, they get another injury, they change their thinking,’€ said Schefter. ‘€œBut I just think that when you look at right now, they went that route and they gave up some draft picks for some veteran players and I think they’€™d rather have not made those moves now. And I think they’€™re just going to sit tight and let these youngsters grow and mature and hopefully develop for their sake and be good players.’€

The Pats offense could receive a boost with the possible return of tight end Rob Gronkowski next Sunday against the Saints. Gronkowski has been sidelined for the first five games of the season after surgeries on his back and forearm.

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Read More: Aaron Dobson, adam schefter, Bill Belichick, Josh Boyce

Danny Amendola: ‘It was good to get back out there’

10.06.13 at 10:19 pm ET
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CINCINNATI — It was not the return Danny Amendola envisioned but the fact the wide receiver was able to get through his first complete game with the Patriots in rainy weather on a slippery track is a good sign. He may not be at full strength but Sunday was an indication that he is certainly on his way.

Amendola didn’t start the game but he did enter on third down of the game’s first drive. He wasn’t targeted until the second quarter but wound up finishing with four catches on nine targets for 55 yards. All of this after missing the last three games with a groin injury.

“It was good to get back out there,” Amendola said. “We didn’t get the job done today, just have to get better.”

Trailing 13-3, the Patriots appeared to have scored a touchdown that would have drawn them within three points and extended Tom Brady’s touchdown streak to 53 games.

Amendola caught a pass from Brady at the Bengals 1 and tried rolling over backwards into the end zone. But Amendola was ruled to have been touched down at the Cincinnati 1 after a touch by Bengals safety Chris Crocker. The Patriots stalled over the course of the next three plays and had to settle for a Stephen Gostkowski 19-yard field goal.

“I caught it. I knew I was close,” Amendola said. “I tried to roll in. I thought I was going to be in but it didn’t roll that way.”

Then, Patriots had two chances in the final three minutes to get the game-tying touchdown. After Gio Bernard fumbled, the Patriots went three-and-out, including an Amendola drop on second down.

“It was just a play I need to make, a big play on the drive, a big play in the fourth quarter. Regardless, I’ve got to get that. Just get it next time.

“They did everything we expected them to do, really. It really came down to making plays. We just need to get better, look at film get better for next week.”

Amendola said he can’t wait to get back on the field with Brady next week at home against New Orleans.

“It’s the second game I’ve played with him,” Amendola said. “I’m really looking forward to playing with him next week.”

The rain in Cincinnati provided a good test for Amendola before the game when he sprinted out onto the field just after 11 a.m. after being cleared to play.

“It was just something that was day-to-day all week and just felt good enough to play. I felt good to get back out there. It felt like I could run like I wanted to and move around. Just obviously didn’t end up like we wanted to but have to get back to work.”

Then, late in the fourth quarter, torrential rains returned and Amendola felt confident that his groin would not be compromised.

“It was raining but that’s something we practice,” Amendola said. “We anticipate playing in the rain. We just need to get better. It’s not something I wanted to think about during the game. I was full-go. Weather was weather. You can’t control that. I feel good right now. I felt like I could play better.”

Amendola was not alone in that regard Sunday.

Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Danny Amendola, New England Patriots, nfl
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