|12.27.11 at 6:05 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For the first time since turning up as a late scratch with a sore right foot Saturday, Matt Light spoke on Tuesday and he hit on a number of topics, starting with his own health.
“We’re getting there, buddy,” a grinning Light said with a smile at his locker. “I just wasn’t able to go the other day, unfortunately. It’s a tough deal, game-day, making that decision. But we’ll work this week and get back out there. It’s feeling better.”
As for his teammate Logan Mankins, who reportedly suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee, Light said Mankins was with him in team meetings all day and will return, though his initial reaction was not optimistic.
“Not good,” Light said of Mankins’ injury. “He’s a tough guy, a guy that’s never missed a practice or a game, or had any of those kind of issues. When you see that happen, it’s always tough to watch. But I’m sure the cowboy will ride again. He’ll be good.”
As for the team’s offensive line come the playoffs, Light said the offensive line has total confidence in coach Dante Scarnecchia.
“I never have any lack of confidence in that, whether it’s Dante working with some of the younger guys, or some of the vets, talking to those guys, or just guys stepping up and going out and doing their job,” Light said. “It will work out one way or the other.”
With the Pro Bowl announcements on Tuesday, Light said he really didn’t care whether he made the AFC team or not.
“I could care less about all that stuff,” said Light, who was reminded it’s nice to visit Hawaii. “It’s a long flight, buddy. Enjoy it.
“I think we have a lot of guys that go out there and work hard, prepare hard. It’s not an easy system to be in. I’ve been fortunate to be in this system for quite a while and it’s nothing you take for granted, as far as all the work you put into it. But we have a lot of guys that have really stepped up and done a lot of great things. Obviously, we have guys that know how to play this game pretty well.”
As for Drew Brees, he said he was happy for his former teammate and quarterback at Purdue, he said he was happy for and his brand new single-season NFL record for passing yards, accomplished Monday night in a win over the Falcons.
“Yeah, he’s doing all right for a short guy, isn’t he?” Light joked.
Would it matter if he got the record for Tom Brady this weekend?
“Nah, I’m sure it’s a thing for those guys [quarterbacks], something they can hang their hat on but as far as us up front, if we win the game, we’re good to go,” Light said.
|12.27.11 at 4:01 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots announced Tuesday afternoon the death of one of their pioneers and perennial all-stars, defensive tackle Houston Antwine. The six-time American Football League (AFL) All-Star and 50th Anniversary Team member died Monday night in Memphis, Tenn. at the age of 72. Compounding the loss was the news that his wife, Evelyn Antwine, also passed away hours later Tuesday morning.
‘For those of us who grew up watching the Boston Patriots, this is a really sad day,’ said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. ‘In the 1960s, the defensive tackle tandem of ‘Twine’ and Jim Lee Hunt were as good as any in the league and helped propel the Patriots to the franchise’s first division championship in 1963. Myra and I had the good fortune of hosting Houston and his wife, Evelyn, at my home just two years ago when we honored the Patriots 50th Anniversary Team. I loved hearing Houston’s stories about those early days in Boston. It was such a thrill for me, personally, to spend time with the players from that era. I am saddened to learn of the deaths of both Houston and Evelyn and want to express my deepest sympathies to the Antwine’s daughter, Regina, and all who mourn her losses. Let us all cherish life and remind loved ones how we feel about them daily.’
Born on April 11, 1939, Houston Antwine attended Southern Illinois University where he became a standout multiple sport athlete for the Salukis. The Louise, Mississippi native excelled as a defensive tackle on the football field. He was also a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) wrestling champion for the university. His dominance in both sports earned him an induction into Southern Illinois University Athletic Hall of Fame.
The 6-foot, 270-pound prospect was drafted by the Houston Oilers in the eighth round (64th overall) of the 1961 AFL Draft, but then traded to the Boston Patriots before ever playing a game for the Oilers. Antwine became a defensive catalyst for the Boston Patriots in the newly formed AFL and was selected as an AFL All-Star for six consecutive seasons, spanning 1963-1968. His play earned him the highest accolade as he was elected to the Patriots 1960’s All-Decade team and was named to the All-Time All-AFL Team. Read the rest of this entry »
|12.27.11 at 11:38 am ET|
It has been an incredible year for quarterbacks. Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke Dan Marino‘s 27-year-old record for most passing yards in NFL history on Monday night. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is also likely to surpass Marino in his Week 17 contest against the Bills. Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 45 touchdowns and just six interceptions, and his 122.5 QB Rating would be the highest in NFL history.
All three quarterbacks are amidst historic seasons. All three have won Super Bowls, with Brees and Rodgers each having hoisted the Lombardi Trophy once, while Brady has done so three teams (though not since 2005).
A breakdown of the incredible 2011 seasons by the three quarterbacks is below — take a look and then vote in our poll.
|12.26.11 at 4:15 pm ET|
With the Patriots securely in the postseason, it’s time to start sizing up their possible postseason opponents. This is the first in a weeklong series of features on the rest of the AFC playoff teams. Today, we open with a look at the Baltimore Ravens:
The skinny: Baltimore, which enters the final week of the regular season at 11-4, has clinched a playoff spot and is currently the No. 2 seed behind New England. Despite the successes the Ravens have had this year, they remains the AFC’s ultimate trick-or-treat franchise: The Ravens have beaten several good teams — they’ve swept Pittsburgh, and posted solid wins over San Francisco, Houston, the New York Jets and Cincinnati. Meanwhile, they’ve submitted some of the worst performances in the league this season, having lost to Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle and San Diego, four teams who will likely miss out on the playoffs. Bottom line? No one is sure what to expect from this Baltimore team in the postseason.
Offense: The Ravens certainly don’t possess a world-class offense, but could still be called better than average. Baltimore relies on Ray Rice to grind out yardage in the running game, and the Rutgers product has 1,173 yards on 267 carries for a 4.4 yards per carry average and 10 touchdowns this season. When Joe Flacco (297-for-523 for 3,480 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions) throws the ball, he looks for Rice out of the backfield (74 catches, 696 yards). When he does look downfield, it’s usually wide receiver Anquan Boldin (57 catches, 887 yards, 3 TDs) or tight end Ed Dickson (53 catches, 508 yards, five TDs).
Defense: More often than not, Baltimore wins because if its defense. The combination of defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and safety Ed Reed has been one of the best in the league the last few seasons, and this year is no exception. The Ravens can get after the passer with the best of them (their 47 sacks are second-best in the league to Philadelphia’s 49), and they rank in the top five virtually every major defensive category, including fewest points per game allowed (16.7 heading into the final week of the regular season).
|12.25.11 at 12:49 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It could’ve been the nightmare before Christmas for Devin McCourty. But the cornerback who kept getting picked on in the first half rebounded in the second half Saturday to turn his day into a feel-good Christmas Story.
McCourty had a brutal first half, giving up a 39-yard pass to Brian Hartline on 3rd-and-9 down the right sideline on the game’s opening drive. That led to a Dolphins field goal.
In the second quarter, it only got worse. McCourty again got spun around down the right sideline, ending in a 47-yard pass from Matt Moore to Brandon Marshall. That led to a Moore to Marshall 19-yard TD strike and a 10-0 Miami lead.
“When you line up against Marshall a lot, you know they’re going to throw him the ball,” McCourty said. “Covering him, you know you’re going to get some balls your way. They have guys out there than can make plays. They were able to put the ball in the air. We made some plays and they definitely made some, too.”
On the next drive, the Patriots had the Dolphins pinned 3rd-and-12 at their own 9. Moore threw a ball too high for Hartline, but in his haste, McCourty tackled Hartline. Pass interference was the call and the Dolphins went on to complete an 11-play, 89-yard drive, ending in a touchdown that put the Dolphins up, 17-0.
The vibes were bad. The first half ended with the Patriots being booed, as Stephen Gostkowski missed a 51-yard field goal with three seconds left in the second quarter.
‘Just keep fighting,” McCourty said of his first half and the team’s performance. “We’ve got 30 minutes to go, we’ve got to keep playing. We can’t go out there and just concede losing. Just go out there, keep fighting and see what happens.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|12.24.11 at 6:53 pm ET|
After Miami stunned New England in the first half by racing out to a 17-0 lead, the Patriots could only manage a field goal on their first drive of the second half. And on the ensuing kickoff, Gates found a seam and burst through it towards open field. The only obstacle standing between him and the end zone: kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
“That was kind of the ‘Oh crap’ moment,” Gostkowski said following the game.
Gostkowski did not panic, as he dove and tripped up Gates, making the tackle on what otherwise would have likely been a touchdown. Instead, the Miami offense got the ball on its own 38-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Matt Moore fumbled and Vince Wilfork recovered the ball, giving New England some life in what seemed like a hopeless game.
The Patriots offense scored a touchdown on that possession and the comeback was on. The Patriots went on to win the game, 27-24. After the game, Gostkowski talked about his all important tackle.
“Luckily I got myself in a good enough position to have an attempt to make a play,” Gostkowski said. “I’m sure there’s times, nine times out of 10, where the guy probably just runs right by me. But you know, it was a big play and it feels even more rewarding that we turned the ball over right after that and then we end up winning the game. I guess that was my Christmas present.”
|12.24.11 at 5:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For the Patriots, the key moment in Sunday’s 27-24 win over the Dolphins came early in the second half when a key turnover helped New England flip the script and gain momentum of the game.
New England had dug itself a 17-0 halftime deficit with some poor play on both sides of the ball, but the Patriots had started to climb out of the hole on its first possession of the third quarter when Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 45-yard field goal to them New England on the board with 11:44 remaining in the third.
On the Dolphins’ next possession, they were able to move the ball out to their own 40-yard line. Three plays into the drive, a botched center/quarterback exchange between Mike Pouncey and Matt Moore led to a fumble, and Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was immediately on it, falling on the ball and giving New England some of its best field position of the day. The Patriots then went 38 yards on seven plays, with the culmination coming when Tom Brady found Deion Branch on a one-yard pass play in the back of the end zone.
The extra point made it 17-10, Miami, but it was just the beginning — the Patriots would score 27 consecutive points, turning a 17-0 deficit into a 27-17 lead. New England would hold on down the stretch for the 27-24 win, pushing its’ record to 12-3 and clinching a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.
“There was never a doubt in our mind, especially my mind, that we were going to pull this game out,” Wilfork said “We just had to go out there and make the plays, get off the field and make the plays and get off the field, and put our offense in good situations. Field position was a big thing today. Once we got field position and gave it to the offense, they handled it very well.
“That’s one of those things. You have to just keep rolling. You never know how you’re going to win but good teams always find a way to. That’s what we have to continue to do.”