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Following the flags: Breaking down the Patriots penalties through 13 games

12.13.11 at 10:13 am ET
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Through 13 games this season, the Patriots have been flagged for 74 penalties (27th in the league) and 658 yards (21st). New England had four penalties this week for 47 yards. Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
Team: eight penalties (12 men on the field, offensive holding, illegal block above the waist, two illegal substitutions, illegal shift, delay of game), 44 yards
OL Logan Mankins: seven penalties (two offensive holding and five false starts), 41 yards
OL Matt Light: five penalties (four holding and one false start), 40 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: five penalties (holding, false start, facemask, unsportsmanlike conduct, illegal touch pass), 49 yards
OL Nate Solder: four penalties (three holding and illegal use of hands), 40 yards
S Sergio Brown: four penalties (three defensive pass interference and one unnecessary roughness), 86 yards
QB Tom Brady: three penalties (one delay of game and two intentional grounding), 20 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: three penalties (unsportsmanlike conduct, two unnecessary roughness), 32 yards
OL Brian Waters: three penalties (one holding, two offensive holding), 25 yards
LB Dane Fletcher: two penalties (offensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 17 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: two penalties (holding, encroachment), 11 yards
TE Dan Gronkowski: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards
CB Leigh Bodden: two penalties (both defensive holding), 10 yards
WR Wes Welker: two penalties (illegal motion, false start), 10 yards
S Pat Chung: two penalties (unnecessary roughness and facemask), 15 yards
WR Deion Branch: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards
WR Chad Ochocinco: two penalties (illegal formation, false start), 9 yards
DL Andre Carter: two penalties (both roughing the passer), 26 yards
CB Devin McCourty: two penalties (illegal block above the waist, defensive pass interference), 21 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: one penalty (defensive pass interference), 35 yards
LB Rob Ninkovich: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
DL Kyle Love: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
OL Dan Connolly: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
S James Ihedigbo: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
TE Aaron Hernandez: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
OL Sebastian Vollmer: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
K Stephen Gostkowski: one penalty (illegal onsides kick), 5 yards
DE Mark Anderson: one penalty (defensive offsides), 5 yards
RB BenJarvus Green Ellis: one penalty (illegal substitution), 5 yards
OL Donald Thomas: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
CB Phillip Adams: one penalty (illegal contact), 5 yards
LB Gary Guyton: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Offensive line: 22 penalties for 171 yards
Tight end: eight penalties for 64 yards
Team: eight penalties for 44 yards
Safety: seven penalties for 123 yards
Defensive line: seven penalties for 78 yards
Wide receiver: six penalties for 29 yards
Cornerback: six penalties for 71 yards
Linebacker: five penalties for 48 yards
Quarterback: three penalties for 20 yards
Running back: one penalty for five yards
Kicker: one penalty for five yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
Offensive holding: 17
False start: 16
Defensive pass interference: five
Illegal block above the waist: four
Unnecessary roughness: four
Roughing the passer: four
Illegal substitution: three
Intentional grounding: two
Unsportsmanlike conduct: two
Defensive holding: two
Facemask: two
Encroachment: two
Delay of game: two
Illegal formation: one
Illegal use of hands: one
Illegal motion: one
Twelve men in the huddle: one
Illegal onside kick: one
Defensive offsides: one
Illegal touch pass: one
Illegal shift: one
Illegal contact: one

Read More: penalties,

By the brutal numbers: Breaking down the Patriots secondary

12.13.11 at 1:15 am ET
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Rodney Harrison said on Sunday night that the 2011 Patriots feature the worst secondary he’s seen in the last decade. With the team on pace to shatter the record for most passing yards allowed in a season (the Pats project to permit 400 more passing yards than the current standard-bearers for futility in the pass defense, the 1995 Falcons), the numbers tell a woeful tale about the work being done by the Pats’ pass defense.

A statistical breakdown of the Patriots’ pass defenses of the last decade is below. For more on the subject, check out today’s column from Chris Price.

NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Patriots prepare for Tebow week

12.13.11 at 12:42 am ET
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Eight of the top 10 teams in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings were victorious in Week 14. The Cowboys were the only team to drop out of the top ten. They move to No. 12, while the Giants leap to No. 10.

Tim Tebow pulled off another miraculous fourth quarter comeback and has the Broncos (13) sniffing the top 10. In one of the most anticipated games of the year, Tebow will face off against the Patriots (5) in Week 15. Football fans everywhere are fascinated to see if the “Tebow Magic” can carry over for a seventh straight week.

Two coaches lost their jobs on Monday. The Chiefs (25) parted ways with Todd Haley and the Dolphins (22) fired Tony Sparano. Sparano and Haley join Jack Del Rio as coaches to be shown the door this season, and they probably won’t be the only ones. Raheem Morris with the Bucs (23), Andy Reid with the Eagles (21),  Norv Turner with the Chargers (15), and Jim Caldwell with the Colts (32) are just a few other coaches who would appear to be on the “hot seat”.

1. (1) Packers (13-0) ‘€” The Chiefs, Bears, and Lions stand in the way of the Packers completing a perfect regular season. Unless Aaron Rodgers goes down, Green Bay should become the second team in NFL history to finish a season 16-0. The success can be credited to a dynamic offense and a defense that causes turnovers. Their 32 takeaways leads the league.

2. (2) Ravens (10-3) ‘€” Sunday’s upcoming game against the Chargers will be a good test for the Ravens defense. Philip Rivers will be the best quarterback the team will have faced since Ben Roethlisberger in Week 9. If the Ravens win, they’ll clinch a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive year. If they win their remaining three games, they’ll lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the first time in franchise history.

3. (3) Saints (10-3) ‘€” Very rarely do you see the Saints kick four field goals in a game. Usually we see Drew Brees slinging the football in the endzone. The Saints have looked like a very different team on the road at times this season and inevitably they’ll be forced to leave the comfy confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and play outdoors on the road. Sean Peyton will have to find a way to get his team to play at the same level on the road as they do at home.

4. (5) Steelers (10-3) ‘€” Ben Roethlisberger‘s health has been a concern all year because he’s constantly taking hits from opposing defenses. He is the second-most sacked quarterback in the league. The Steelers luckily escaped catastrophe when Roethlisberger went down with just a high-ankle sprain. Big Ben is beat up and needs better protection from his offensive line if the Steelers want to make a return to the Super Bowl. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: aaron rodgers, NFL Power Rankings, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady

Tim Tebow and the death of Cause-and-Effect

12.13.11 at 12:23 am ET
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The ongoing Tim Tebow saga has killed Cause-and-Effect. Not sure the exact time of death, but Cause-and-Effect has drawn its last breath. . . at least as far as the NFL is concerned. Cause-and-Effect had a heckuva run. Shame, really. Coulda been a contender.

One action produces a certain response in the form of another event. Boxer punches opponent in the skull. Opponent falls to mat. A begets B in sport’€™s simplest form.

Football, at its core, is at the complete opposite end of the sporting world spectrum from the similarly A-leads-to-B worlds of ping-pong and thumb-wrestling: 22 rapidly moving bodies simultaneously blending scripted movements with lightning-fast reactions.

And that’€™s just the problem with football. It’€™s not simple. Never was, never will be. Cause-and-Effect in football isn’€™t neat, and it’€™s often nuanced and convoluted. That doesn’€™t fit comfortably into a headline, TV show or radio segment. So, eventually, Cause-and-Effect had to be offed. It was inevitable.

If you’€™ve turned on a TV, read an article or listened to the radio even a li’€™l bit in the last two months with your defenses (or senses) down, you heard, ‘€œTebow Beats ______’€ in some shape or form. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Unfortunately, the Tim Tebow story has unearthed so many idiocies such as this in the ongoing NFL dialogue that Cause-and-Effect had no choice but to keel over.

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Each and every week we watch Tim Tebow struggle mightily for most of the game, only to offer his positive contribution to his team’€™s effort at the tail end. But If Tim Tebow is believably, singularly incredible and credit-worthy, then so too must be Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey. Lackey just wins. He may have caused more runs last year than all-you-can-eat enchiladas, but he just wins, right? Cause-and-Effect never stood a chance.

Tim Tebow would be an important part of 100 out of 100 professional football teams. He’€™d just be the quarterback for very few of them. But so what? What’€™s the compulsion to NEED him to be the quarterback, as if skilled running back, H-Back, specialist, closer or Lord-knows-what is some sort of indefensible disruption of a needy narrative?

Lee Smith and Dennis Eckersley helped a generation of baseball fans more deeply understand the importance of roles in a sport much more central on the Cause-and-Effect sports spectrum. So why is the intimation that Tebow is doing just that for his team considered anything more than honest evaluation? Because Cause-and-Effect is sleeping quietly in a swamp in New Jersey, that’€™s why.

The rise of the Fan-alyst caused the anointing of the NFL quarterback as Mr. C/E long ago with a little ‘€˜nothing to see here’€™ slight-of-hand. Admittedly, the quarterback is probably the closest you’€™re ever going to get in this regard. And Missouri is the closest U.S. Plains state to Germany. . . but what the hell does that really mean or matter? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Denver Broncos, Matt Chatham, Tim Tebow,

Shanahan ‘embarrassed’ by Redskins inability to bring down Gronkowski

12.12.11 at 7:06 pm ET
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Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Monday he was “embarrassed” by his team’s inability to bring down Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on a 49-yard pass play from Tom Brady to Gronkowski early in the game, pointing specifically at the inaction of defensive back DeAngelo Hall.

On the play, two Washington defenders — DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty — tried to tackle the tight end, but Gronkowski managed to shake them free … as Hall watched.

‘€œThat was disappointing because one of the things DeAngelo usually does is finish,’€ Shanahan said. ‘€œA lot of corners don’€™t like to tackle, but he’€™s one of the more physical guys in the league.

‘€œI know he was embarrassed by it as was our entire football team. You have to finish when a guy is in bounds because things like that could happen.’€

Hall eventually had a hand in bringing down Gronkowski, but only after the tight end had made it all the way down to the Washington 11-yard line. Check out the complete series of screenshots on the play — complete with Hall’s inactivity — here.

Read More: DeAngelo Hall, DeJon Gomes, Mike Shanahan, Reed Doughty

Bill Belichick on The Big Show: Tim Tebow doing what it takes to win

12.12.11 at 6:05 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick made his weekly appearance on The Big Show Monday, discussing Sunday’s victory over the Redskins and their upcoming matchup with the Broncos.

Sunday will bring a matchup of division leaders, as the 10-3 Patriots will travel to Denver to face the Broncos, who lead the AFC West with an 8-5 record. The Broncos have won six consecutive games, with quarterback Tim Tebow leading the team to multiple comeback victories, such as Sunday’s thrilling 13-10 overtime win against the Bears.

“I think the big thing is his won-loss record,” Belichick said of Tebow. “He’s doing things to make his team win in critical situations along with their defense, along with their special teams and they’re winning. They’re leading the AFC west and playing really well right now. It will be a challenge for us. Not only him, but the rest of the team as well.”

Belichick also touched on quarterback Tom Brady‘s argument with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. The two were seen shouting at one another on the sidelines after Belichick yelled at receiver Tiquan Underwood for not getting to a pass that was intercepted in the end zone.

“We talk about a lot of things,” Belichick said. “I think Tom made some comments about it, and I don’t really have anything more to add to that.”

Here are some highlights of the rest of the conversation:

On if the argument was a bigger deal because it was captured by cameras and whether it actually happens regularly:

“I don’t know. Tom made his comments about it, and really, I don’t have anything more to add to that. I think what he said is probably as good a perspective on it as there is. He was right there.”

On if the Broncos play more of an old-school style:

“I think it’s a lot of the things that we’ve been seeing one the last few years. A combination of the Wildcat formations and regular stuff, but they don’t have to substitute to do it because the quarterback can run it.”

On how different a team the Broncos are given the way they play and win games:

“Every game is different and they have different players, and their schemes are different from other teams we play, so yeah, sure it’s different.”

On his relationship with Tebow while he played at Florida and what makes him special:

“I think the things he’s doing now. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he makes a lot of positive plays for his team, and they win a lot of games. That’s a good place to start. I think my feelings for Tim have been pretty well-documented, but that’s not really what it’s about right now. It’s about getting our team ready to play the Broncos. He’s a big part of it, but so are all the other pleasers out there. Their coaching staff does a good job, and it will be a big challenge for us.”

On the buzz around the Broncos:

“I don’t know. I don’t really know what all that’s about. I just see that they’ve won six in a row. They do a lot of things well. He’s part of it, their defense is part of it, their kicking game is part of it and their running game is part of it. They’ve been winning, so it’s a problem all the way across the board.”

On the Broncos’ defense:

“They’re pretty good. They’ve got two very good pass rushers in [Von] Miller and [Elvis] Dumervil and of course they’ve got outstanding coverage players like D.J. Williams at linebacker and Champ Bailey. They can rush, they can cover, they can defend the run, they have good team speed.

“They’re well-coached, they have a good scheme. John Fox has done a good job with them defensively. They know what they’re doing. They have a lot of different looks. They put a lot of pressure on you that way from a mental standpoint. They’re a good, solid defensive football team all the way across the board.”

On 2011 second overall pick Von Miller:

He does really everything. He’s really, really fast and explosive. He’s got a great one-step burst and quickness to get the edge and chase a lot of plays down from the backside. He plays strong, very instinctive. He’s a good football player. You’ve really got to know where he is. He’s a hard guy to block.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Tim Tebow,

Tiquan Underwood: ‘I’ve got to run a better route to catch the ball’

12.12.11 at 5:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood found himself in the middle of a very public sideline spat in the late stages of Sunday’€™s win over the Redskins.

In the fourth quarter, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was picked off by Washington cornerback Josh Wilson in the red zone on a pass meant for Underwood. Afterward, it appeared that Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O’€™Brien were going head-to-head on the sidelines about the missed connection. As Underwood stood to the side and watched, Brady and O’€™Brien barked at each other.

‘€œIt’€™s just part of the game. We’€™re all passionate about our jobs and what we do. It’€™s just part of it,’€ the 6-foot-1, 183-pound Underwood said Monday. ‘€œIt’€™s just part of the game. It happens.

‘€œIt’€™s part of the sport that we play. It’€™s very intense, especially on game day. It’€™s guys having passion for their jobs. It’€™s something we love to do.’€

On WEEI on Monday, Brady said the bad play was on him.

‘€œI’€™m responsible for taking care of the football,’€ he said. ‘€œWhen you’€™re the quarterback, you hold the ball on every play, and really the fate of the whole team rests in your hands. You’€™ve got to be able to make great decisions with the ball. If you don’€™t, your team’€™s going to struggle. I take that responsibility very seriously. When I make bad plays, I make bad plays. There’€™s nothing that anybody can do about those except me. Believe me, I felt awful after the game, to put our team in that position. I certainly hope I don’€™t do that again.’€

The 24-year-old Underwood, who found himself in Sunday’€™s game because of an injury to veteran wide receiver Deion Branch, said he takes the blame for what happened on the exchange.

‘€œAs a wide receiver, we must get open and catch the ball. If we can’€™t catch it, no one catches it, so I have to just become a defender for Tom there and don’€™t let the guy intercept the ball,’€ Underwood said. ‘€œIt was a good play by (Wilson), but I know that I’€™ve got to run a better route to catch the ball. If not, I have to bat it down.

‘€œMe and Tom spoke after that. He just explained to me what I had to do and what to do next time when I’€™m in that situation.’€

Underwood, who has two catches for 17 yards in three games this season with New England, said he’€™s starting to get more comfortable in the offense.

‘€œIt’€™s a learning experience,’€ Underwood said. ‘€œI’€™ve been getting help from a lot of guys in Deion, Wes (Welker), Tom. But like you said, it’€™s just learning on the fly. It’€™s part of this business. Sometimes, you come in and you have to learn on the hop. That’€™s what I’€™m trying to do.’€

Read More: Bill O'Brien, Deion Branch, Josh Wilson, Tiquan Underwood
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