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Pressure points: Which Patriots defenders have done best job getting after QB in 2013?

12.10.13 at 12:20 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the 2013 season, we’€™ll provide a look at the Patriots pass rush numbers. While sacks can be overrated, when evaluated as part of a bigger picture that includes quarterback hits and quarterback pressures (the latter courtesy of Pro Football Focus), it should provide a good picture as to which defenders are consistently able to get after the quarterback. Through 13 games, the Patriots have 36 sacks (tied for 11th in the league), 73 quarterback hits and 141 quarterback hurries. Based on the official NFL game books and PFF, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2013 season:

Quarterback sacks
DL Chandler Jones: 10.5 (65.5 yards)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 6 (29 yards)
DL Chris Jones: 5 (32 yards)
DL Tommy Kelly: 2.5 (14.5 yards)
LB Dane Fletcher: 2 (19 yards)
CB Logan Ryan: 2 (18 yards)
DE Michael Buchanan: 2 (15 yards)
LB Jerod Mayo: 1.5 (5 yards)
DL Joe Vellano: 1 (13 yards)
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 1 (9 yards)
DL Isaac Sopoaga: 1 (8 yards)
DE Andre Carter: 1 (6 yards)
Team sacks: 1 (8 yards)

‘€¨’€¨Quarterback hits (per NFL game books)
DE Chandler Jones: 19
DE Rob Ninkovich: 15
DL Chris Jones: 7
DL Tommy Kelly: 6
DE Michael Buchanan: 5
DE Andre Carter: 5
DL Joe Vellano: 3
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 4
LB: Dane Fletcher: 3
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
DL Vince Wilfork: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1
CB Logan Ryan: 1
S Steve Gregory: 1
DL Issac Sopoaga: 1
LB Jamie Collins: 1

Quarterback hurries (per PFF)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 36
DE Chandler Jones: 29
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 12
DL Joe Vellano: 11
DL Chris Jones: 10
DL Tommy Kelly: 6
LB Brandon Spikes: 6
DE Michael Buchanan: 5
LB Jamie Collins: 5
DE Andre Carter: 4
DL Vince Wilfork: 3
DL Isaac Sopoaga: 3
LB Dane Fletcher: 3
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
CB Devin McCourty: 2
DL Sealver Siliga: 1
CB Marquice Cole: 1
CB Kyle Arrington: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1

By way of comparison, here’s how the pass rush numbers looked after 13 games last season.

Read More: pressure points,

Bill Belichick on S&H: ‘Our team has shown consistently that they’ll keep fighting’

12.10.13 at 10:33 am ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick checked in with Salk & Holley on Monday afternoon to discuss New England’s thrilling 27-26 comeback victory over the Browns on Sunday, as well as Rob Gronkowski‘s season-ending injury.

The Patriots once again got off to a slow start  against Cleveland, as New England entered halftime trailing 6-0. New England’s offense could not get anything going over the first two quarters, as the Patriots only ran three plays within Cleveland territory in the first half. Over the last five games, the Patriots have been outscored by a 67-34 margin over the first two quarters.

‘€œI wish there was something magical that would take that away,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œWe certainly talked about it, but we’€™ve looked at some things, we did a couple of things, but obviously that wasn’€™t the answer, it was still an issue yesterday. We’€™ll keep looking at from the coaching end, and hopefully we can find something that will improve it.’€

While New England executed better in the second half, the Patriots still trailed the Browns by a score of 26-14 late in the fourth quarter. However, the Patriots would make it a 26-21 game with just over a minute remaining thanks to an 11-play, 82-yard drive.

After recovering an onside kick, the Patriots once again made it into the end zone, as Tom Brady found Danny Amendola for a 1-yard touchdown pass to give New England the lead.

‘€œOur team has shown consistently that they’€™ll keep fighting, no matter what the situation is, that they’€™ll just keep playing hard. Once we understand what it is that we need to do, whether that’€™s score, stop them, block a kick, make a kick, whatever that happens to be, we’€™ll try to do it. That’€™s all you can ask for.’€

Despite the incredible ending to Sunday’s game, it was a bittersweet day for New England, as Gronkowski tore both his ACL and MCL after taking a direct hit to his knee from Browns safety T.J. Ward in the third quarter and will miss the rest of the season. After missing the first six games of the year, Gronkowski returned for Week 7 and immediately made an impact on New England’s offense, catching 37 passes for 560 yards and four touchdowns over the next six games.

Gronkowski’s upcoming surgery on his knee will be the sixth surgery that the Pro Bowl tight end has undergone since Nov. 19, 2012.

‘€œI think they’€™re still doing some more tests on it today,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œObviously it’€™s a concern. I don’€™t know if it looks real good, but we’€™ll wait until we have a little more definite information before we say anything. … Rob really wasn’€™t with us at training camp, either, so we had a lot of practice and some games unfortunately without his services in there, but it was great to have him back.

“He’€™s a good player, a guy that everyone wants to see out there on the team. When he’€™s not there, if he’€™s not there, whoever’€™s out there, we expect them to do the best they can — do a good job.’€

To listen to the interview, go to the Salk & Holley audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski

Fantasy Football: Week 15 waiver wire

12.10.13 at 10:28 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 15 waiver wire! If you are still reading, then you must have survived the snow last week — and all the injuries. In most leagues, you now are two wins away from glory, and we’€™re here to help if you have a few holes to fill or if you just want to keep your roster maximized. If you play in a really deep league, check out Rotobahn later today as I will be adding more talent as I continue to work through last week’€™s game film. I’€™ll be back later in the week with WEEI’€™s fantasy football podcast and the starts and sits.

If you need any last-minute lineup help, stop by our Sunday chat, which has been very lively lately. It’€™s nice to know that so many of our readers are doing well. For those of you in keeper leagues and dynasty formats, you’€™ll want to check in with us at Rotobahn throughout the offseason, as we will be increasing our offseason content again this year, with scouting reports for the 2014 rookie class and frequent dynasty updates for key veterans. Stop by and check it all out if you’€™re a fantasy football diehard.

QUARTERBACKS

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins

Tannehill is rolling right now, and with Lamar Miller injured, you have to think he is going to throw the ball a whole lot next week against New England. The Dolphins starter is a good pickup right now in 12-team leagues, and he’€™s got a good remaining schedule.

  • Week 15 – Patriots
  • Week 16 – at Bills

Jay Cutler (or Josh McCown), Bears 

Cutler has been dropped in a lot of leagues, and he is a decent option if he starts in Week 15. If McCown ends up getting the start, then he is an equally solid play. Rostering both of them is a very sound move in deep leagues.

  • Week 15 – at Browns
  • Week 16 – at Eagles

Joe Flacco, Ravens

With Dennis Pitta back, the Ravens finally have their intended offensive paradigm in play. They have a diverse backfield and a dependable possession receiver at tight end plus a potent vertical attack. We saw how well that mix can work last year, and, as I said last week, the closing schedule is very playable.

  • Week 15 – at Lions
  • Week 16 – Patriots

Jason Campbell, Browns

I don’€™t think I need to explain how good Josh Gordon is to my friends in New England. Campbell throws to Gordon, and the matchups are solid the rest of the way. He can help you in 12-team leagues if you have a problem at quarterback.

  • Week 15 – Bears
  • Week 16 – at Jets

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: James Starks, Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler, joe flacco

Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

12.10.13 at 6:15 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 13 games of the 2013 season:

WR Julian Edelman: 76 catches on 110 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 41 catches on 63 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 40 catches on 55 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 39 catches on 66 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 35 catches on 72 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 32 catches on 69 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 19 catches on 25 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 10 catches on 14 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 10 catches on 11 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 5 catches on 12 targets
WR Austin Collie: 4 catches on 8 targets
FB James Develin: 4 catches on 4 targets
TE Matthew Mulligan: 2 catches on 3 targets
RB LeGarrette Blount: 1 catch on 4 targets
TE Zach Sudfeld: 0 catches on 3 targets
RB Leon Washington: 0 catches on 1 target
TE/OL Nate Solder: 0 catches on 1 target

By position
Wide receiver: 193 catches on 334 targets
Running back/fullback: 74 catches on 100 targets
Tight end: 51 catches on 86 targets
Other: 0 catches on 1 target

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the target breakdown through 13 games last season.

Read More: targets,

Patriots put Rob Gronkowski on IR, add TE D.J. Williams

12.09.13 at 4:53 pm ET
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The Patriots placed tight end Rob Gronkowski on injured reserve Monday afternoon, officially ending his season.

Gronkowski sustained a right leg in the third quarter of Sunday’s win over the Browns, and reports later indicated he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. It marks the second consecutive season that has come to a premature end for Gronkowski, who spent last offseason recovering from multiple surgeries on his forearm and back. (He missed the first six games of the 2013 season as a result.)

Gronkowski is the latest New England star to see his season come to a premature end because of injury — he joins defensive linemen Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly; linebacker Jerod Mayo; and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, all of whom have been placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Gronkowski’s season ends with 39 catches for 592 yards and four touchdowns.

In his place, the Patriots have signed tight end D.J. Williams. Williams was signed by the Patriots on Nov. 27 and saw limited action in the win last Sunday at Houston. Williams, 25, played in seven games with one start for Jacksonville this season before being released by the Jaguars on Nov. 4. The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder originally entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick (101st overall) by Green Bay out of Arkansas in 2011. Williams was waived by Green Bay on Aug. 31, and claimed off waivers and awarded to Jacksonville on Sept. 1. He has played in 34 NFL games with three starts and has nine receptions for 70 yards.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: D.J. Williams, Rob Gronkowski,

Snapshot of AFC playoff picture: Broncos on top, while Patriots hold on to No. 2 seed

12.09.13 at 4:19 pm ET
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With three games left in the regular season, here’€™s a quick snapshot of the AFC playoff picture:

1. Broncos (11-2). Clinched playoff spot. Combined record of remaining opponents: 12-27
With Denver’€™s win on Sunday, it appears to be pretty close to a done deal that the Broncos are going to walk away with the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Denver has one home game left (a date with the consistently inconsistent 6-7 Chargers), as well as road contests against the Texans and Raiders. If they’€™re able to get past San Diego, the Broncos should be a safe bet to run the table and finish 14-2.

2. Patriots (10-3). Combined record of remaining opponents: 18-21
New England pulled out another come-from-behind win Sunday against the Browns, adding another chapter in their season-long run of comebacks. (For some perspective, according to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, the Patriots have four wins after trailing by nine or more points in the second half since Week 8. By way of comparison, the Packers have one — Sunday — since 2005.) Whether or not they can keep everything moving in the right direction without Rob Gronkowski is a serious question mark — the Bengals lurk a game behind with three to play — but right now, they still have that second spot.

3. Bengals (9-4). Combined record of remaining opponents: 15-23-1
Cincinnati continues to put pressure on New England for that No. 2 spot — the Bengals came away with a 42-28 win over the Colts Sunday in Cincinnati to remain perfect at home. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the win, the third straight victory for the Bengals. At the very least, with a two-game lead with three to play, it appears Cincinnati now has the AFC North title within its grasp. The Bengals have two games against AFC North foes Pittsburgh (on the road) and Baltimore (at home), which could prove to be interesting, but right now, they’€™re a safe bet to at least come away with a division title.

4. Colts (8-5). Combined record of remaining opponents: 16-23
After Sunday’€™s loss in Cincinnati, it appears that the Colts will be locked into the four spot, as they’€™re a game back of the third-seeded Bengals with three to play, while the Chiefs are looking more and more secure as the lead wild-card team at the No. 5 spot. There was a lot to like about where this team was headed over the first half of the season, but the amazing inconsistency down the stretch has been troubling from an overall development standpoint — they’€™ve alternated wins and losses over their last six games. As we said last week, that sort of up-and-down play isn’€™t a sustainable formula for success, especially when it comes to the postseason.

5. Chiefs (10-3). Combined record of remaining opponents: 18-21
Kansas City was able to halt a three-game losing skid Sunday with a 45-10 win thumping of the Redskins on the road, and fundamentally locked up the lead wild card spot in the AFC playoff picture.

6. Ravens (7-6). Combined record of remaining opponents: 28-13
Boy, if Baltimore can close this out down the stretch, no one can accuse them of backing into the postseason. They’€™ve won four of their last five, and have three games left against teams that are a combined 15 games over .500, including a Sunday night date against the Patriots in less than two weeks. And while they’€™ll have to beat back a collection of teams that is just out of the running (including the 7-6 Dolphins, the 6-7 Chargers and the 6-7 Jets), they did get an infusion of talent this past Sunday when tight end Dennis Pitta returned to the lineup for the first time all year after suffering an injury in training camp.

Read More: AFC playoff picture,

Knee injury reportedly will sideline Rob Gronkowski for rest of season

12.09.13 at 10:24 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee in Sunday’s win over the Browns, and will be lost for the rest of the 2013 season, according to multiple reports.

“Rob’s going to have more tests today, but that situation doesn’t look too good,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in his Monday morning conference call with the media.

For the tight end, who sustained the injury in the third quarter against Cleveland after he was felled by T.J. Ward at the end of a 21-yard pass play, it has been a difficult year. After an offseason marked by multiple surgeries on his back and forearm, he missed the first six games of the regular season. He had just been starting to ramp back up — entering Sunday’€™s game against the Browns, he had 27 catches for 419 yards and four touchdowns over the previous four games.

Said Belichick on Monday: “Unfortunately we had to play without Rob in the beginning of the season. … We’ve dealt with that already.”

Going forward, expect the Patriots to lean heavily on Michael Hoomanwanui and Matthew Mulligan at tight end. In addition, early reports indicate New England is in the process of re-signing tight end D.J. Willams to add depth at the position.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Rob Gronkowski,

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