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Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs Giants!

11.05.11 at 9:20 am ET
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Are the Giants, 5-2 and leading the NFC East, for real? We’ll find out in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon as the Pats face that “other” team from New York. Here are some stats to get you ready:

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* – New England has won 54 consecutive home games when they’ve taken a lead into halftime. Their last such loss was a 27-24 decision to the Dolphins on Christmas Eve, 2000, after the Pats led 21-17 at the break. It’s far and away the longest such streak since 1997:

54 – Patriots (2001-current)
25 – Dolphins (1998-2002)
22 – Eagles (2003-2005)
22 – Packers (2009-current)

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* – This is the 8th consecutive season that the Giants have started 5-2 or better:

2004 – Started 5-2; Finished 6-10
2005 – Started 5-2; Finished 11-5
2006 – Started 5-2; Finished 8-8
2007 – Started 5-2; Finished 10-6
2008 – Started 6-1; Finished 12-4
2009 – Started 5-2; Finished 8-8
2010 – Started 5-2; Finished 10-6
2011 – Started 5-2;

From 2004 through 2011, the Patriots and Giants rank first and second in winning percentage over the first seven games of the season:

.786 – Patriots (44-12)
.732 – Giants (41-15)
.714 – Colts (40-16)

The Giants’ problem is that after those fast starts, they’ve stumbled down the stretch to the tune of 29-34 (.460) over the last seven seasons.

Note this: Having said all that, the Giants have won the season’s 8th game in 13 of the last 16 seasons and are 8-2 when their 8th game has been on the road since 1995.

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* – There was lots of hand wringing last week about the 36 pass completions allowed by the Patriots, and yes, that’s a lot. But let’s break them down:

Thrown 10 yards or less downfield: 31-for-40 (78%) for 272 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; +1.42 rating;
Thrown 11 yards or more downfield:  5-for-10 (50%) for  93 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions; -0.33 rating;

80% of the Steelers’ passes were thrown 10 yards or less downfield. Coming into the game, only 59% of Pittsburgh’s throws (and 65% of throws against New England’s defense) this season had traveled 10 yards or less.

Entering last Sunday’s contest, the Patriots had actually defended against those short passes fairly well, allowing a +0.09 rating (13th). They were much worse on passes beyond 10 yards, allowing a +1.59 rating (26th).

The Patriots allowed Steelers’ receivers to gain 199 yards after catches last Sunday, the 4th most against New England since they began tracking the stat in 1992. 180 of those came on short completions, an average of 5.8 per catch. Any guesses as to how often the Pats have allowed greater than 5.8 YAC yards on short passes? If your answer was “in seven of their last eight games”, give yourself a gold star.

So other than the fact that the Steelers were uncharacteristically content to dink and dunk their way down the field, it doesn’t appear that the pass defense was nearly as bad as it seemed.

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* – So will the Giants use the same approach? Doubtful. Here is the same breakdown for the Giants offense through eight weeks:

Thrown 10 yards or less downfield: 108-for-149 (72%), 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; +1.47 rating (4th in NFL);
Thrown 11 yards or more downfield:  48-for-92 (52%; ranked 5th), 7 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; +2.59 rating (4th in NFL);

Only 62% of New York’s passes have been 10 yards or shorter this season, but they’ve been awfully effective at both short and long throws so far this season.

So good, in fact, that the G-Men (mostly Eli Manning) have put up the third best overall rating in the league:

+4.08 – Packers
+2.11 – Patriots
+2.02 – Giants
+1.73 – Texans
+1.39 – Lions

Their lofty mark is helped by 7.8 net yards per pass play (3rd), 5.1% touchdowns (6th), and 2.0% interceptions (8th best). Quite an improvement from their 14th ranked +0.26 rating last season.

————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

Wes Welker ‘could care less’ about the predictions of Antrel Rolle

11.04.11 at 5:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Wes Welker is a prideful man. So, when it was suggested that getting the ball deep on defenses would open things up for receivers like him underneath, he reacted like it hurt him more than any Troy Polamalu head tackle or any Antrel Rolle proclamation.

“I’ve actually gotten the ball deep a few times deep this year so I don’t think you can take me out of the equation, either,” Welker said Friday when asked if getting speedsters Taylor Price and Chad Ochocinco deep and to the outside would help his routes.

“I think any time you get the ball deep to anybody is going to help out the passing game. We’ll just see how it all plays out and what we can do on Sunday.”

Welker did catch the first 99-yard TD play in Patriots history on opening night in Miami but that came on a seam route 15 yards downfield. The last deep connection for the Patriots came on the first play of the second half against the Jets at Gillette when Tom Brady hit Welker in stride for a 73-yard play.

Indeed, if Welker can get deep then his path will no doubt cross safety Antrel Rolle, who said this week – when asked about Welker – “I can handle anything.”

“I’m really not too worried about it, just trying to study him up on film and get ready for him and make sure I do everything possible to be successful on Sunday and really, that’s where my focus is,” Welker said Friday. “I’m not worried about too much else.

“I could care less either way if he did or didn’t. I’m just focusing on the game and really, I think at this point, you hear it all and you just don’t worry about it, move on and get ready for the game.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: antrel rolle, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets

Peter King on M&M: Pats should have drafted for pass rush

11.04.11 at 1:55 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King joined Mut & Merloni Friday at noon for his weekly appearance. King spoke about the Patriots’ struggling defense and the personnel problems in the secondary.

King said he thinks the Patriots may have used too many draft picks on defensive backs over the last few years. New England has drafted a defensive back in either the first or the second round of every draft since 2007. King noted that the Patriots may have been better served bolstering their pass rush instead of worrying about the secondary.

“I’ve got think that if there’s somebody there like [Scott] Pioli, who used to get into pretty good arguments with [Bill Belichick] and used to challenge him on things, somebody might’ve said, ‘Look, we have got to simply buttress our pass rush,'” King said. “If you look at where they are now rushing the passer, it’s basically a Scotch tape job. … At some point, you’ve got to respect the guys who get to the quarterback and sack the quarterback as much as you do the guys who cover the receivers.”

New England is in the bottom third of the NFL in sacks and dead last in total defense, giving up 424.1 yards per game. While the defense has been better of late, King said it could end up hindering the Patriots’ hopes of a Super Bowl run.

“I said, maybe three or four weeks ago, that their defense ultimately will kill them and it will mean another failed season come playoff time,” King said. “Now, obviously they have nine weeks to prove me and probably a lot of other people wrong. But they obviously have not played at a tremendously high level. Having said that, you look at them in the last month, they certainly in the last month are better than they were early on. So you have some guys learning a new defense and playing a bit better.

“With the way things are going for them right now, I’m not afraid of getting in a shootout game with Tom Brady against anybody, and there’s a good chance there’s going to be a shootout game this weekend against Eli Manning, because Manning is playing so well. But, and I’ve always thought this, its very difficult to win three or four games in a row in the playoffs if every week you have to rely on a shootout to win.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brian Waters, Peter King, Terrell Suggs

Kevin Faulk is ‘still behind the 8-ball’

11.04.11 at 1:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Kevin Faulk is not fooling himself.

He knows he missed the first six games of the season before returning last weekend from his ACL tear of 2010. He was effective. He caught his trademark passes out of the backfield. He was the hot-read several times for Tom Brady, when the QB was under pressure. He picked up blitzes.

But he is still getting in game shape. He knows it and Bill Belichick acknowledged as much this week when asked about Faulk’s contribution.

“Let’s get to the next game,” Faulk said. “That’s the mentality. You want to get there, you want to get that taste out of your mouth, you want to get that feeling out of your mouth. You want to get back in the win column.

“Whatever I can do. That was my first game back. For me right now, just keep building and keep getting better and be as consistent as I can be because I’m still behind the 8-ball right now. I just have to get in there and get comfortable.”

Faulk led the Patriots with six carries for 32 yards and while catching five passes from Brady.

“I haven’t played the first [six] games of the season,” he said. “Everybody else has. It’s just time for me to catch up with everybody.”

And how did the knee respond?

“Right now, I’m sore,” Faulk said. “But that’s to be expected. That’s the game we play. You have to get to ready to go. Every week is tough. Every week is different.”

Faulk will be called upon to help contain one of the most ferocious front fours in the NFL this weekend as the Giants will look to replicate their Super Bowl XLII effort, when they battered and bruised Brady.

“Their front four is magnificent,” Faulk said. “They can bring guys in to do the same thing, drop guys down from the linebackers position and come and play D-end and rush the passer. That’s what’s so unique about their rush group; their line.

“I think it’s all about having confidence in yourself and being able to know that you can do it. Just like practice, have repetition. Like I said, I’m behind the 8-ball. That’s one of those areas I’m behind the 8-ball. I’ve got to get up to speed.”

Read More: 8-ball, Kevin Faulk, New England Patriots, New York Giants

Hello DB Malcolm Williams, goodbye DB Josh Victorian

11.04.11 at 1:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots signed DB Malcolm Williams to the practice squad on Friday. To make room they released DB Josh Victorian from the same unit.

The 23-year-old Williams was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round (219th overall) of the 2011 Draft out of TCU. He originally signed with Oklahoma but ended up at Trinity Community College before going to TCU for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. This is the second time Williams has been added to the practice squad. He was released by the Patriots on Aug. 29 and signed to the practice squad on Oct. 25, 2011. He was released from the practice squad on Oct. 28, 2011.

Victorian, 23, went to training camp with Baltimore after signing with the Ravens as a rookie free agent out of Louisiana Tech on July 28. Victorian, 5-10, 190 pounds, originally joined the Patriots practice squad on Sept. 22 before being released on Oct. 25. He was re-signed to the practice squad on Oct. 28.

Read More: Josh Victorian, Malcolm Williams, New England Patriots, nfl

Patrick Chung on M&M: ‘We played good defense’ vs. Steelers

11.04.11 at 12:34 pm ET
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Patriots defensive back Patrick Chung checked in with the Mut & Merloni show Friday for his weekly appearance. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Chung wasn’t interested in spending too much time rehashing the defensive struggles in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, and he remained positive about the team’s effort.

“We played good defense,” he said. “The game comes down to five big plays. They executed more of those plays. We played good. But that game’s over. We’re over that game.”

Looking at specific aspects the Patriots can improve, Chung focused on communication.

“Everybody has to be on the same page in order to be in the right defense,” he said. “Little communication things, that’s very important but it can be easily fixed. Easily fixed by guys being in the meeting room, knowing what they’re doing. That’s not a problem. Every once in a while the defense has a couple of problems. It’s just how you react to it and how you get better from it.”

Asked why it’s taking the team so long to get past these issues, Chung replied: “Nothing’s holding us back. That’s how the game goes sometimes. That’s how the game goes. It’s all about limiting those errors. Everyone has communication problems. It’s about limiting them and keeping them to a halt. Keeping them very limited, having maybe one or two instead of three or four. That can make a huge difference. Everybody has their problems. It’s just about how you react from it. Just play ball after that.”

Asked why the Patriots don’t play a more aggressive style, Chung took exception to the question.

“I think we’re aggressive,” he said. “We fly to the ball. ‘€¦ I would never say that. We’re an aggressive team. We’re coming to get the ball and we’re coming to play football.”

Injured Steelers receiver Hines Ward took a shot at the Patriots defense after Sunday’s game, saying the Pats weren’t enough of a threat to make him rush back.

“That’s how he felt. Everybody has their own opinion,” Chung said. “We’re not worried about that stuff. We have a game to get ready for. ‘€¦ He can say whatever he wants to say. We’re not worried about small talk. We’re not worried about any of that stuff. We’re here to play football.”

Read More: Hines Ward, Patrick Chung,

Jerod Mayo on M&M: ‘Tough to hear’ criticism from Steelers’ Hines Ward

11.04.11 at 11:57 am ET
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Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo joined the Mut & Merloni show Friday, as the Patriots prepare for Sunday’s game against the Giants. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Working his way back from a knee injury, Mayo was on the field for less than half of the defensive plays in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers.

“It’s coming along,” Mayo said of his knee. “Just working every day, trying to get it better each and every day. Hopefully, it continues to improve.”

Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison was critical of the defense and the strategy after Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. Mayo brushed off the comments.

“Rodney’s going to say what he wants to say,” Mayo said. “He’s not in this locker room. I’m loyal to these guys in this locker room. Rodney’s a great player. He’s entitled to his opinion. I think we have the guys on this team and on this defense to be successful and to be a good defense.”

Injured Steelers receiver Hines Ward also took some shots at the Patriots defense, saying he didn’t feel the need to rush back for the game.

“It’s tough to hear things like that, but at the same time, hindsight is 20-20. He didn’t say it before the game or anything like that,” Mayo said. “It is tough to hear that. Like you said, I’m prideful, especially when it comes to defense. We’ve just got to continue to get better and start figuring out people, and that’s what we’re working toward.”

Talking about the defense’s communication issues, Mayo said: “Different things happen on football teams. Injuries are a huge part of communication. Any time you have different guys back there you have to talk to them differently, you have to make adjustments differently. That’s up to us up front, the linebackers, making sure everyone’s on the same page. We take that burden. Hopefully, it improves this week.”

Read More: Hines Ward, Jerod Mayo, Rodney Harrison,
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