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Patriots sign Marcus Forston to active roster, release Andre Neblett 10.12.13 at 5:17 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Saturday they have signed first-year defensive lineman Marcus Forston to the 53-man roster from the practice squad. To make room on the roster, the Patriots released defensive tackle Andre Neblett.

Forston, 24, was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent on May 10, 2012 out of Miami. The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder made the 53-man roster of training camp as a rookie but was released early in the season and brought back to the practice squad, where he spent the majority of the season. He eventually re-joined the 53-man roster prior to the AFC championship game but was inactive for the game. Forston made his NFL debut as a defensive reserve at Baltimore on Sept. 23, 2012. He went to training camp with the Patriots this past summer but was released on Aug. 31 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1.

Neblett, 25, was signed by the Patriots on Wednesday. He is a veteran of three NFL seasons with the Panthers after joining the team as a rookie free agent out of Temple in in 2010. The 6-foot, 310-pounder signed with Tampa Bay as an unrestricted free agent on May 6 but was released by the Buccaneers on Aug. 31. Neblett has played in 30 NFL games with seven starts during his three seasons with the Panthers and has registered 28 total tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries. Last season, he played in 11 games with two starts and recorded 11 tackles and one-half sack.

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10 things you have to know about Saints-Patriots 10.12.13 at 1:11 pm ET
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Here’€™s everything you need to know about Sunday’€™s Patriots-Saints game.

Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:

1. Cornerback Aqib Talib against tight end Jimmy Graham ‘€“ While it won’€™t be exclusive, single coverage, expect the Patriots to try and utilize Talib against Graham for part of the afternoon, as he’€™s the only one of their cornerbacks who can run with him stride for stride and has the physical body type that could give him problems. Graham is a freakshow of epic proportions in that he’€™s bigger than your average defensive back and just as strong as any linebacker who could work against him in coverage. That’€™s why Talib — your best defender in situations like this — might offer something that another defender (Dont’€™a Hightower? Jerod Mayo? Jamie Collins?) couldn’€™t. Honestly, when you’€™re talking about defending him, you have to account for the fact that you’€™ll give up something and just try and minimize the damage. One other note: Graham has at least 100 yards receiving in four consecutive games, and can break tie for longest streak by tight end in NFL history Sunday against New England.

2. Patriots defense against running back Darren Sproles ‘€“ A classic third-down back, Sproles is the best in the league at what he does. The 30-year-old is a 5-foot-6, 190-pound machine out of the backfield who can beat you on the ground (103 rushing yards, 4.1 yards per carry) or through the air (26 catches, 308 yards and one TD). Sproles isn’€™t a deep threat in the passing game, but instead one of the best in the league when it comes to YAC with 224. He has to be hit and hit hard coming out of the backfield — think of the classic image of Willie McGinest belting Marshall Faulk before he got off the line in Super Bowl XXXVI, and you have an idea of what we’€™re talking about here. Make sure he doesn’€™t get into his routes by using physical force and redirection, and you can throw off the New Orleans short passing game. The Patriots have allowed 683 total yards to running backs this season — including 23 catches for 185 yards through five games — which means Sproles will be a huge point of emphasis this week for the New England pass defense.

3. Quarterback Tom Brady against Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan ‘€“ We detailed some of what the Patriots have come to expect from a Rob Ryan defense over the last few seasons here, but it should be another chess match between the quarterback and an opposing defensive coordinator who has a mostly positive track record when it comes to at least slowing down the Patriots. Go back to the 2011 meeting between the Patriots and Cowboys, when Ryan was serving as the Dallas DC. In that game, Ryan was able to gain the upper hand early and discombobulate Brady with a variety of different looks that produced two sacks and an interception by the end of the first quarter. Brady and the Patriots responded by stepping on the gas pedal and running no huddle for 52 percent of the game. The Cowboys struggled to keep up — they were forced to go relatively simple in their schemes as a result — and the Patriots got away with a narrow 20-16 win. Don’€™t expect New England to go turbo this weekend against the Saints (the Patriots have been in no-huddle on only 5 percent of their snaps this year), but they have to find some way to put together some lengthy, sustained drives in hopes of keeping the high-powered Saints offense off the field as long as possible. Brady is 2-1 in his career against Rob Ryan defenses, and if he wants to move to 3-1 on Sunday, he and the rest of the New England offense will have to raise its collective game against a defensive coordinator who always has something interesting planned for them.

4. Under-the-radar opponent Patriots fans need to know ‘€“ defensive end Cameron Jordan has become Ryan’€™s latest pet project — the New Orleans defensive coordinator has turned him into an elite-level pass rusher coming off the edge. He has four sacks through the first five games, and has shown a nice ability to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. (For the record, we thought he would have been a nice fit in Foxboro.) Part of the success of the Saints defense lies in the fact that their offense is able to jet to a quick lead, which often leaves teams needing to throw the ball to get back into the game. That one-dimensional style can leave opponents vulnerable, and that’€™s usually when Ryan is able to unleash a flurry of blitzes, including Jordan and Junior Gallette (three sacks). According to Pro Football Focus, Jordan also has five quarterback hits and 19 quarterback hurries.

5. By the numbers: Via STATS, Brady has won 12 straight home starts in the month of October, with 24 TD passes, five interceptions and a 104.4 passer rating in those games. Brady’€™s 2013 completion percentage (56.6 percent) and passer rating (80.5) are both his second lowest through five games in any season in his career. (One more — Brady is 0-3 as a professional against Brees. The only time he beat Brees was as a collegian and his Michigan team knocked off Purdue in 1999. For some of those highlights, check them out HERE.)

6. Quote from an opposing scout about this game ‘€“ ‘€œYou stop Drew Brees and that offense by keeping them off the field. Expect the Patriots to try and utilize the same game plan they did the other week against the Falcons. The Saints have tough matchups and cause you to defend the field vertically and horizontally. You have to slow down routes by getting hands on receivers, and you have to squeeze throwing lanes on Brees.’€ — For more from that scout, check out the full breakdown HERE.

7. Patriots fans should be worried about ‘€¦ the game getting out of hand early. New Orleans and Denver have the two best offenses in the league, and while the Saints aren’€™t putting up points like the Broncos, they have just as many elite level skill position players. New England wants the score of the game to be in the teens and twenties, while the Saints would like the score to get up into the thirties. The lower the score on Sunday, the greater the Patriots’€™ chances are of winning the game.

8. Saints fans should be worried about ‘€¦ the Patriots building to a point in the game where they can put together a sustained running attack. One weakness for the Saints that fairly jumps off the page is their run defense. New Orleans is average to below average when it comes to stopping the run, and its 5.4 yards per carry allowed is the worst in the league. For whatever reason — scheme, personnel, weather — the Patriots abandoned the run too early in the second half of last week’€™s loss to the Bengals, only running the ball six times in the second half of a competitive game. If a similar situation presents itself Sunday against the Saints (that is to say, it’€™s a one-score game either way in the fourth quarter), New England should find a winnable matchup if it decides to keep the ball on the ground against New Orleans.

9. One more thing ‘€“ There is a level of Gronk fatigue that is settling in around the team. While he wasn’€™t exactly exasperated as some would have you believe when he answered questions about Gronkowski last Wednesday — this is where the video of the exchange is far more illuminating than the transcript — Brady is clearly a little peeved about having to go through the same dance every week when it comes to questions about the status of the tight end. One thing that we do know is that the decision to keep him off the physically unable to perform list, in hindsight, was a necessary part of the rehab process. If he were placed on PUP, he wouldn’€™t have been eligible to practice, which would have set him back another few weeks (at least) in his rehab. The fact that he’€™s been out there, running around with his teammates and engaging in football-like activities for a month or so now is something that will be to his advantage when he does get back into game action. The hill won’€™t be so steep. But when it comes to whether or not he’€™ll be able to play on Sunday, no one is quite sure what to expect.

10. Prediction —

Tommy Kelly, Leon Washington ruled out for Saints game 10.11.13 at 3:59 pm ET
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Defensive lineman Tommy Kelly and running back Leon Washington were ruled out by the Patriots Friday for Sunday’s game against the Saints. Kelly appeared to injure his knee in the second half of last Sunday’s loss to the Bengals, while Washington has been plagued by injuries for a sizable portion of the season — an ankle issue kept him out of practice all week.

As for the rest of the list, tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Stevan Ridley were among the seven players listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Gronkowski hasn’t played this season because of forearm and back issues, while Ridley sat out last week’s game with a knee issue that left him limited over the course of the week.

Here’s the complete list:

Did Not Practice
DL Tommy Kelly (knee) OUT
RB Leon Washington (ankle) OUT

Limited Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin) QUESTIONABLE
RB Brandon Bolden (knee) QUESTIONABLE
TE Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) QUESTIONABLE
RB Stevan Ridley (knee) QUESTIONABLE
ST Matthew Slater (wrist) QUESTIONABLE
OL Ryan Wendell (concussion) QUESTIONABLE
DB Tavon Wilson (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE

Full Participation
WR Aaron Dobson (neck) PROBABLE
LB Dont’€™a Hightower (knee) QUESTIONABLE
LB Jerod Mayo (ankle) PROBABLE
DL Rob Ninkovich (groin) PROBABLE

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Report: Tony Corrente will work as referee for Patriots-Saints 10.10.13 at 8:58 pm ET
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Tony Corrente will work as the referee for Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Saints at Gillette Stadium, according to our pals at Football Zebras.

Corrente, who has worked as a referee in the NFL since 2000, is one of the more respected officials in the game, and is best know amongst his peers for having worked as the lead official in Super Bowl XLI. (On the flip side, he was fined last season for accidentally uttering an obscenity at another official while his mic was on. He was docked a game check.)

Since 2009, he’s worked one New England game per season — all of them wins for the Patriots. That includes a 17-10 win over the Bills in 2009, a 23-20 victory over the Chargers in 2010, a 31-19 triumph against the Raiders in 2011 and New England’s 41-28 divisional playoff win over the Texans this past January at Gillette Stadium.

For more on Corrente’s record as an official, check out his page at Pro Football Reference.

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Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 5: Not a good week for anyone on offensive side of ball 10.08.13 at 6:10 pm ET
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This preseason, we debuted the Tom Brady Confidence Index, a by-the-numbers look at the comfort level the quarterback had with the rest of the skill-position players when it came to the passing game. Because of the reaction we got, we decided to make it a semi-regular feature and expand it to include overall offensive touches (receptions and carries, with more weight to carries in clutch situations) and how comfortable the quarterback might appear to be with some of his teammates when it came to trusting them in certain situations.

As always, we rate each of the skill-position players and their relationship/comfort level with Brady on a scale of 0 (Taylor Price) to 100 (Wes Welker) on their body of work to this point in the season.

(Disclaimer: While most aspects of this blog deal in mathematical specifics as it relates to football, this entry is more of a tongue-in-cheek approach to Brady and how he relates to the rest of the New England offense. Bottom line? Don’€™t take the rating system too seriously.)


Season stats: 36 catches, 50 targets, 354 yards, two touchdowns

From a numbers perspective, it wasn’€™t the best afternoon for Edelman, who finished with two catches on seven targets for 35 yards against the Bengals. (That’€™s why his number dipped a bit, falling from 91 to 83.) At the same time, his work over the first four games is a clear indication that the quarterback still has plenty of faith in Edelman, who is now one catch from tying his career-high for receptions in a season. He has twice as many catches as Kenbrell Thompkins, who is second on the team with 18 receptions, and he’€™s the first pass-catcher on the team to reach 50 targets. (For some perspective, Wes Welker was at 38 catches and 52 targets through five games last season.) Things figure to change when Rob Gronkowski returns, but providing Edelman stays healthy, there’€™s no reason to think he won’€™t continue to be one of the most important elements of the New England passing game.

WIDE RECEIVER DANNY AMENDOLA: 72 (last week: inactive)

Season stats: 14 catches, 23 targets, 159 yards

Amendola made his return after suffering a Week 1 groin injury against the Bills and was able to provide some positive moments in the passing game, including a 21-yard reception down the middle in the second quarter that turned out to be the second-longest play from scrimmage all afternoon for the Patriots. He ended with four catches on nine targets for 55 yards. Not great, but certainly better and more consistent than just about any of the other New England receivers against the Bengals.


Season stats: 14 rushes, 92 yards, 6.6 YPC; 12 catches on 15 targets for 84 yards; 1 negative reception

Bolden did a lot of things well — he accounted for 64 yards from scrimmage, working as an occasional change-up back and option in the passing game out of the backfield. But he had a bad drop on a screen pass early on that set the Patriots back, which leaves him at the same 70 where he checked in last week. One thing worth keeping an eye on: with Shane Vereen on the shelf for the next several weeks because of a wrist injury, Bolden is close to being on pace to join the 40-catch/40-carry club. Over the last five seasons, Kevin Faulk (58 catches and 83 rushes in 2008) and Danny Woodhead (40 catches, 76 carries in 2012) also turned the trick. That’€™s some good company.
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Josh McDaniels: Overall offensive execution was lacking against Bengals 10.08.13 at 3:50 pm ET
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Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels acknowledged Tuesday the “overall execution” on offense in last Sunday’s loss to the Bengals “wasn’t what we wanted it to be.”

Asked specifically about the number of drops — and whether the inclement conditions played a role — he said it wasn’t just the drops.

“We had some throws that were a little off, and we had some guys that tried to make some tough catches and didn’€™t come up with them — and that’€™s football,” he said. “We certainly don’€™t accept it and we’€™re not going to just stand there and not try to improve and get better at it every week.

“There’€™s no magic potion or formula you use, and you certainly try to give them every opportunity during the course of the week to practice the things that they’€™re going to do on Sunday, and then hopefully those happen to carry over.”

McDaniels was also asked about some of the play-calling, specifically the decision to not run the ball much down the stretch against the Bengals — New England called just six carries in the second half.

“You want to stay balanced on something like that, as much as you can, and I know that some of the situations that come up in the game certainly skew those numbers,” he explained. “We had had two two-minute situations there in the second quarter and then a few situations certainly towards the end of the game where we’€™re in much more of a pass mode. But our intention is never to really get out of whack in terms of run/pass ratio on any of those things, and certainly that’€™s something that I will always try to maintain a good balance on. If I ever get out of balance, I definitely want to try to bring it back to as close to 50/50 or somewhere near there as I can.”

Here are some of the rest of the highlights from the Q&A:
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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players 10.08.13 at 1:27 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. Five weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2013:

RB Stevan Ridley: 50 (47 rushes, 3 catches), 7 negative plays, 1 fumble lost
RB LeGarrette Blount: 46 (46 rushes, 0 catches), 4 negative plays, 1 fumble lost
WR Julian Edelman: 38 (2 rushes, 36 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 26 (14 rushes, 12 catches), 1 negative reception
RB Shane Vereen: 21 (14 rushes, 7 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 18 (0 rushes, 18 catches)
QB Tom Brady: 17 (17 rushes, 0 catches), 10 sacks, 10 kneeldowns, 2 fumbles lost
WR Danny Amendola: 14 (0 rushes, 14 catches)
WR Aaron Dobson: 13 (0 rushes, 13 catches), 1 negative reception
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 4 (0 rushes, 4 catches)
FB James Develin: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Leon Washington: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)
TE Matthew Mulligan: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
WR Josh Boyce: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)

Some offensive notes: Overall, the Patriots were in the shotgun for 33 of their 60 snaps against the Bengals, a rate of 55 percent — a season high. (That was coming off a 24 percent rate the week before against the Falcons, which was a season low.) Overall, the Patriots have been in shotgun 43 percent of the time this season. By way of comparison, New England was in shotgun 44 percent of the time through the first five games of 2012. ‘€¦ The Patriots didn’€™t run any no-huddle against the Bengals, marking the third time since the start of the 2012 season they didn’€™t use no-huddle in a game and the second consecutive contest. On the year, the Patriots have operated out of a no-huddle on 17 of their 347 plays from scrimmage, a rate of five percent. That’€™s a sizable step down from the last two years when they averaged 25 percent during the regular season. ‘€¦ New England has run 347 offensive plays this year in four games. Not counting kneeldowns, 23 have been for negative yardage. The Patriots ran 60 plays Sunday, and five were for negative yards — four sacks of Brady and one negative reception for Dobson. ‘€¦ Through five games in 2012, the Patriots were scoring an average of 33 points per game. This year, they’re averaging 19 points per game through the same stretch.

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the offensive breakdown through five games last year.

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