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Robert Kraft: Steve Sabol was ‘a true visionary’

09.18.12 at 9:20 pm ET
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued a statement Tuesday night in the wake of the death of Steve Sabol of NFL Films.

‘€œToday, the entire National Football League mourns a great loss. It is impossible to measure, or truly comprehend, the impact that Steve Sabol and NFL Films have had in the growth and popularity of the NFL. He was a true visionary. It was Steve and his father, Ed, who first had the idea of recording professional football’€™s greatest moments and blending them with words of poetry and music. Steve was an artist who loved telling stories about the game of football. As a result, he brought generations of fans closer to the game by exposing them to the sights and sounds in a way that no one else ever has.

‘€œAs chairman of the broadcast committee, I had the opportunity to work closely with Steve over the years. I know a lot of passionate football fans, but I never met anyone who loved the game more purely, or was more passionate about preserving its history, than Steve was.

‘€œThe films he created and the highlights he captured were amazing. I still get goose bumps every time I watch one of the Patriots’€™ America’€™s Game series.

‘€œHe spent his life preserving the legacy of the National Football League and its many legends. In doing so, he became a legend in his own right and leaves a legacy that football fans will enjoy for generations to come.

‘€œOn behalf of my family and the New England Patriots, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Sabol family and all those who are mourning his loss.’€

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Josh McDaniels: Julian Edelman ‘has earned the right to get out there and play’

09.18.12 at 7:01 pm ET
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We wrote about the upturn in the amount of reps Julian Edelman has enjoyed this season here, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels weighed in on the topic on Tuesday, saying Edelman “has earned the right to get out there and play.”

“I think we have lot of guys that can do different things and help us make some plays and move the ball, and Julian is certainly one of those guys,” McDaniels said on a conference call with reporters. “He made quite a few plays the other day in the game and really helped us and came up big in a couple of those two-minute situations there.

“He’s a guy that gives you everything he’s got on every play. He’s got good speed and has caught the ball well for us so far this year. He certainly gives you an element — he’€™s a returner — so he certainly gives you an element of run after the catch. I would say that’€™s something he does fairly well, not to say we don’€™t have other players that do it very well too, but Jules has earned the right to get out there and play.”

To this point in the regular season, the fates of Edelman and Wes Welker remain inexorably linked. When it comes to Welker and the dip he’s seen in reps, McDaniels said it all boils down to the game plan for the week.

“Wes played a big role for us the other day,” McDaniels said. “I think it just goes back to the fact that we feel like we’€™ve got a number of different guys that can contribute and help our offense and have earned the opportunities that they’€™re getting. I think Wes — whatever it was, we threw the ball his way 12 or 13 times or somewhere in that neighborhood the other day and he made a number of big plays for us.

“Each game plan ends up different. Sometimes we play guys the majority of the game; other times we feel like using some different rotations may give us some advantages, whether that’€™s a matchup that we end up with in the front or a personnel grouping that we expect the defense to give us, or even formationally, ourselves in terms of what we try to do. I think there are a number of factors that go into our game plan every week, but certainly he is going to be a big part of our game plan each week that we go in and play.”

Here are some other highlights of McDaniels’ Q&A from Tuesday afternoon:
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Bill Belichick, Patriots anticipate more no-huddle from Ravens

09.18.12 at 6:45 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday there are some big changes between the Ravens team they beat in the AFC title game eight months ago and the one they’ll face this Sunday night in Baltimore.

“They run a lot more no-huddle offense. That looks like a big part of their package,” Belichick said on a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters. “There are some different players in there for one reason or another. Some of the matchups will be a little bit different; of course that’€™s true of us too.

“Some of their younger players have started to really mature and become very good players, guys that are really getting into the prime of their career, like [Dennis] Pitta or [Ed] Dickson, Lardarius Webb, guys like that, [Pernell] McPhee. They’€™ve added some young guys that have shown up in the kicking game, like [Corey] Graham, [Christian] Thompson, obviously [Courtney] Upshaw, who’€™s shown up on defense too. They’€™re the same but they’€™re different.

“Of course, Dean [Pees] is the coordinator. He has a couple different wrinkles from what we saw last year as well. I wouldn’€™t say they’€™re major but I would say they’€™re definitely significant; put a little different twist to it for us.”

Defensively, some of those wrinkles could be familiar, as  Pees held the same title with the Patriots from 2006 through 2009. (He was also New England’s linebackers coach in 2004 and 2005.)

“I don’€™t think we’€™re seeing anything revolutionary; things that are a little different from some of the things they did last year or things they’€™re doing more of this year — wrinkles in their dime package and things like that,’ Belichick said of the Baltimore defense.

“It’€™s not anything that we’€™ve never seen before, like I said, some of the percentages of it or the emphasis on it, those things change from year to year. Even if the coordinator didn’€™t change, some of those things would change anyway.”

Here are some other highlights from Belichick’s Q&A Tuesday afternoon:
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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

09.18.12 at 4:28 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Two weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

Stevan Ridley: 44 (39 rushes, 5 catches). Seven negative plays.
Danny Woodhead: 15 (14 rushes, 1 catch). One negative play.
Brandon Lloyd: 13 (0 rushes, 13 catches).
Rob Gronkowski: 12 (0 rushes, 12 catches).
Wes Welker: 8 (0 rushes, 8 catches).
Aaron Hernandez: 7 (1 rush, 6 catches).
Julian Edelman: 6 (0 rushes, 6 catches).
Brandon Bolden: 5 (5 rushes, 0 catches). One negative play.
Tom Brady: 3 (3 rushes, 0 catches.) Five sacks and two kneel downs.

Other offensive notes: Of its 78 plays from scrimmage on Sunday, New England was in no-huddle for 19 of them — 24 percent, which is about the team’s average over the last year-plus. But eight times before the start of the fourth quarter, the Patriots ran no-huddle plays, and on six of those occasions, New England got one yard or less. You can’€™t sustain a hurryup with that lack of momentum, and it showed on the lack of flow on offense. … Through two weeks, the Patriots have been in no huddle for 24.8 percent of their total offensive snaps. … After two weeks, New England is in the Top 10 in every major offensive category, including total offense (sixth, 388.5 yards per game), rushing offense (ninth, 126 yards per game) and pass offense (eighth, 262.5 yards per game). … Ridley is fifth in the league with 196 yards. Meanwhile, Lloyd is tied for third in the AFC with 13 catches.

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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

09.18.12 at 3:45 pm ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains an 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 through the first two weeks of the 2012 regular season:

WR Brandon Lloyd: 13 catches on 19 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 12 catches on 15 targets
WR Wes Welker: Eight catches on 16 targets
TE Aaron Hernandez: Six catches on eight targets
WR Julian Edelman: Six catches on eight targets
RB Stevan Ridley: Five catches on seven targets
RB Danny Woodhead: One catch on one target

By position
Wide receiver: 27 catches on 43 targets
Tight end: 18 catches on 23 targets
Running back: 6 catches on 8 targets

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Pressure Points: Which Pats defenders have done best job of getting after QB in 2012?

09.18.12 at 12:50 pm ET
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Here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots through two weeks:

Quarterback hits
LB Brandon Spikes: Two
DE Jermaine Cunningham: One
DL Vince Wilfork: One
DE Trevor Scott: One
DE Chandler Jones: One
DE Rob Ninkovich: One

Jones: One (one yard)
Ninkovich: One (zero yards)
Cunningham: One (seven yards)

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Following the flags: Tracking Patriots’ penalties for 2012 season

09.18.12 at 12:28 pm ET
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Through two weeks, the Patriots have been flagged for 11 penalties (24th in the league) for a total of 80 yards (28th in the league). 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:
TE Rob Gronkowski: two penalties (offensive holding, false start), 15 yards
Team: two penalties (illegal formation, illegal block above the waist), 15 yards
S Steve Gregory: one penalty (personal foul), 15 yards
CB Ras-I Dowling: one penalty (defensive pass interference) 9 yards
LB Jerod Mayo: one penalty (defensive pass interference) 6 yards
DE Chandler Jones: one penalty (defensive offsides) 5 yards
LS Danny Aiken: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
OL Donald Thomas: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Tight end: Two penalties for 15 yards
Team: Two penalties for 15 yards
Defensive line: Two penalties for 10 yards
Safety: One penalty for 15 yards
Cornerback: One penalty for nine yards
Linebacker: One penalty for six yards
Specialists (punter, kicker, long snapper): One penalty for five yards
Offensive line: One penalty for five yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
False start: Three
Defensive pass interference: Two
Offensive holding: One
Illegal formation: One
Illegal block above the waist: One
Personal foul: One
Defensive offsides: One
Encroachment: One

Read More: Patriots, penalties,
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