|Packers putting up ‘historical’ numbers at Lambeau Field this year||11.25.14 at 3:43 pm ET|
When it comes to playing it home, no one in the NFL is better than the Patriots.
But, right up there with New England is the Packers at Lambeau Field — the place the Patriots will be traveling to on Sunday, as Green Bay is 71-29 at home during the regular season since 2002, the fifth-best winning percentage in the league.
The Packers have been especially great this season as the Green Bay is a perfect 5-0 at home and have outscored its opponents 219-85, averaging 43.8 points per game. Getting off to quick starts has been a huge key for the Packers, as in the first half of their last four home games, they have outscored their opponents 128-9.
Bill Belichick knows getting off to a good start is key, particularly on the road against Green Bay. It does help the Patriots will enter the game averaging 18.8 points per game in the first half this year, the second-most in the league, behind none other than the Packers at 20.2.
“We’re playing Green Bay in Green Bay,” Belichick said on Tuesday’s conference call. “That’s where they’ve been very dominant really in terms of getting ahead and playing from ahead, first quarter. The numbers are staggering: 128 to 9 in the first half and [opponents] get outscored by 110 points in four games. It’s got to be of historical type proportions, but we have to find some way to do that. Like I said, the games got so far away from Chicago and Philadelphia that no matter what you have, what kind of game plan, whatever you’re trying to do, the game got out of hand so fast, they had no chance really to be able to do it.”
|Rodney Harrison on MFB: Dominic Raiola’s cheap shot was a ‘real childish and immature act’||at 12:25 pm ET|
NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss the end of the Patriots’ game with the Lions and to look ahead to this weeks game against the Packers. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
At the end of the Patriots’ 34-9 win over the Lions this past Sunday, Lions center Dominic Raiola dove at the knees of Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore when the Lions were taking a knee to end the game, as well as appearing to take a swing at him earlier on the drive. It was reported Monday he likely would not be fined. Harrison said it comes down to playing the full 60 minutes and Raiola was in the wrong.
“I don’t know how the NFL is going to respond, but I think you have 60 minutes to play football,” said Harrision. “[Detroit has] a lot of issues for him to worry about. When you look at the Patriots, the Patriots each and every week — it’s not they did something different, they play 60 minutes. That’s [what they are taught] — to play 60 minutes and never expect to come out of the game, you don’t care if you are losing by 50 or winning by 50. I think it was a real childish and immature act.
“I think it could have got somebody hurt and I think in a situation like that you have other concerns. He should be concerned with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, that offense and them not being able to move the ball and put up points. I was very disappointed in what he did — a veteran player should know better than that. You have an opportunity to play 60 minutes, shut up and play 60 minutes. You got your butt kicked flat out and getting your butt kicked each week. Do something about it, don’t try and cheap shot somebody and take somebody’s knees out. There’s no place for that.”
Harrison also looked ahead to the Patriots’ upcoming game against the Packers, who are playing just as well as the Patriots of late — winning seven of their last eight games and currently leading the NFC North with an 8-3 record. The Vikings put up a tough fight against them last Sunday, with the Packers winning by a score of 24-21, and Harrison said they did a good job of limiting the big plays from Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense.
|5 things you have to know about Packers||11.24.14 at 11:03 pm ET|
While Tom Brady was specifically talking about their execution of the back-shoulder fade, it’s pretty much true across the board. Rodgers and Nelson have developed the same sort of relationship that Brady and Wes Welker enjoyed when Welker was with the Patriots. Nelson is eighth in the league in catches (68), fifth in targets (106) and receiving yards (1,066) and fourth in touchdown catches (nine). He’s only one of five receivers with at least 100 targets and 1,000 receiving yards, and has 18 catches for 329 yards and three touchdowns in his last three games. The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder out of Kansas State is Rodgers’ go-to guy, and will be the No. 1 priority for the Patriots Sunday when it comes to slowing Green Bay down. Rodgers also gets plenty out of the rest of his targets in the passing game, including wide receiver Randall Cobb (58 catches on 79 targets for 837 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns), running back Eddie Lacy (29 catches on 36 targets for 335 yards and three touchdowns) and wide receiver Davante Adams (28 catches on 43 targets for 296 yards and three touchdowns)
They run the ball just enough to keep opposing defenses honest.
There’s nothing overly flashy about the way the Packers operate when it comes to their ground game — simply steady and consistent, just enough to augment Rodgers and the Green Bay passing game. As a team, they’re 18th in the NFL, averaging 107 rushing yards per game. Eddie Lacy is the lead back, having carried the ball 154 times for 672 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the year, all of which are best on the roster. (He’s coming off an impressive outing against the Vikings where he finished with 125 rushing yards.) The Packers really don’t have a traditional third-down type out of the backfield, but James Starks (nine catches on 17 targets for 48 yards) occasionally works in that role, in addition to serving as a backup to Lacy.
They occasionally struggle to stop the run.
There are plenty of teams who have done well running the ball against Green Bay. The Packers have held opponents to less than 100 yards rushing only twice in the last 18 games, dating back to last year. (In all, three teams ran for at least 150 yards against Green Bay this season, including the Saints, who had 193 rushing yards in an Oct. 26 win over the Packers in New Orleans.) Some of that is due to situational football, as the Packers have managed to make a lot of teams one-dimensional because they’ve been terrific at burying teams early — Green Bay has outscored teams 222-105 in the first half — and the big deficits have caused teams to try and throw the ball to try and get back into it.
|Tom Brady trying to be as good as Aaron Rodgers – throwing back shoulder passes||11.19.14 at 2:59 pm ET|
One of Brady’s most productive throws during his six-game winning streak is the back shoulder pass to wide receiver Brandon LaFell. He completed two of them on Sunday night alone, part of LaFell’s three catches on four targets for 62 yards. One of them came on a key third-down conversion to keep a touchdown drive alive.
Brady was asked about the level of trust it takes to let go of the ball before a receiver is turned around on back-shoulder throws.
“We’ve been working pretty hard at it for a while, Brandon and I,” Brady said. “I think it’s a big trust thing. You’ve got to trust that when the ball is in the air that they’re not going to make the play on it. And when you’re in those one-on-one situations, as a quarterback, you can only really control it until it leaves your hand. Even though the outcome may not be good, sometimes you may make the right decision. But as a quarterback, when you’re decisive and you trust that someone is going to make a positive play, it’s much easier to just let it rip. He’s really allowed me to do that. He’s been such a fun player and a fun teammate to have. He’s my locker mate, so we’ve got a great relationship. It’s been a lot of fun.”
It’s the kind of relationship Brady will see up close and personal next week when the Patriots travel to Green Bay.
“It’s all those things that amount to a good passing game. When you see certain quarterbacks play with certain receivers, like I see Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson ‘ they are probably the best at it,” Brady said. “It’s the timing of when to throw, how hard to throw. It’s when to look. If you look too early, if you slow down as a receiver, it’s a low percentage play. If you throw it too hard or too high, it’s a low percentage throw.
“It’s just a big trust throw, and both people really have to be on the same page. We’ll just keep working at it. Those are big plays. You have to throw to the perimeter of the field. And it’s 25 yards down the field and [when] you make plays like that where you can gain a quarter of the field in one throw, it’s a big momentum play. That probably got me most excited. But we need more of those. Hopefully we can make a few of those this week.”
When the Patriots signed the 6-foot-3 LaFell in March as a free agent, Brady was pumped up because he was getting a big receiver that could go up and fight for the ball on that play.
“That’s the advantage of having a big player like that, too, where you’re physically bigger than the opposing player that you’re going against, and you can use your body and your size to protect the ball,” Brady said. “I think that’s one of Brandon’s great strengths. For those to come up, it’s not a big surprise. He’s a big guy. When guys get tangled up with Brandon, they usually get the brunt of it.
“The closer you are to him, sometimes I don’t think that’s the best thing because he’s such a big presence, and he’s got really long arms and he’s got big hands to be able to make those types of plays. Those are good plays for us to make. Like I said, we’re going to need to keep making them, and as the season keeps going on and the games get bigger, we need to have those plays in our back pocket and know that we have confidence that we can go out there and hit them.”
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|Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski and Matthew Slater among top Pro Bowl vote-getters||11.13.14 at 8:30 am ET|
With the first wave of voting complete, three members of the Patriots lead Pro Bowl voting at their respective positions.
Rob Gronkowski leads voting among tight ends with 166,066 votes, while kicker Stephen Gostkowski (67,814 votes) and special teamer Matthew Slater (36,679 votes) are also currently leading their groupings.
As for quarterback Tom Brady, he’s fourth among quarterbacks with 254,807, behind only Peyton Manning (359,598), Andrew Luck (284,575), Aaron Rodgers (280,394). He’s fifth overall, as he’s just nudged out by running back DeMarco Murray (263,097).
Despite the fact that Brady is near the top of the voting totals, don’t expect him to make it, even if the Patriots are able to play. The quarterback has been voted to the Pro Bowl in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, but the last time he actually went to the Pro Bowl was 2004.
The Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 25 in Arizona the week before the Super Bowl.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I was kind of fast and loose’ during early part of NFL career||11.10.14 at 7:32 am ET|
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning and talked about living it up in his early days in the NFL and how his lifestyle habits have changed through the years. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Brady said he enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with his wife and kids during the off week.
“My family and I got away for a couple of days,” he said. “It was really nice to be with our kids. They get, not neglected this time of year, but there’s just not as much time. So it was nice to get a way for two or three days.
“Yes, I did watch football yesterday. Not really the whole day, but bits and pieces, certain games, seeing what happened in our division, which was great for our team, and a little bit of the game last night. It’s a thing to be a spectator. There’s not too many weekends where we’re really spectators — really once a year. It’s fun to just kind of sit back and watch a little bit.”
According to a recent report, teammate Julian Edelman raved about Brady’s worth ethic and noted that the QB goes to bed around 8:30 most nights.
“I do go to bed very early, ’cause I’m up very early,” Brady acknowledged. “I think that the decisions that I make are always, they always probably center around performance-enhancement, if that makes sense. So whether that’s what I eat, or what decisions I make, whether I drink or don’t drink, it’s always football-centric. I want to be the best I can be every day, I want to be the best I can be every week, I want to be the best I can for my teammates.
“I love the game and I want to do it for a long time. But I also know that if I want to do it for a long time I have to do things differently than the way that guys have always done it, because you hear stories of people when they get older this declines or this declines. I don’t really believe those things, so I have to kind of take a different approach, so strength training and conditioning, how I really treat my body, it’s important to me. Because there’s really nothing else that I enjoy like playing football. I want to do it for as long as I can. And that’s what a lot of the decisions that I make that hopefully does affect my teammates, because I know a lot of my teammates have the same goal. And a guy like Jules who’s more dedicated than anybody, he’s very much the same way. Those are the type of guys you love to play with, that are going to do everything they can to help the team, that are going to be their best all the time, in the offseason when the lights aren’t shining, that’s when it matters the most.”
Looking back on when he was just making a name for himself with the Patriots, Brady said he was able to enjoy the experience off the field.
“The 25-year-old Tom Brady had a great time. [Laughing] I probably wouldn’t change much from those days,” he said. “It was a different time than it is now, because there’s so much attention now. I don’t know how these young players do it. I was kind of fast and loose back then. I was still a responsible person. I’ve always had certain responsibilities that I’ve always felt. But I’d say more so now. When you have obviously a wife and kids, your life transitions into other things. So it’s simplified in a lot of ways. Now it’s just football and it’s being with my family, and that’s the most important stuff. I wouldn’t change anything when I was 25. I wish it would have lasted a little longer.”
|What we learned Sunday: J.J. Watt is a beast, Steve Smith is awesome and Adam Vinatieri is ageless||09.28.14 at 8:55 pm ET|
With the Patriots set to play Monday night, here’s a quick look at what we learned around the league Sunday, mostly from a New England perspective.
1. J.J. Watt could be an MVP.
Remarkably, the last defensive player to win MVP was Lawrence Taylor in 1986, but if he continues on his current path, Houston’s J.J. Watt could certainly make a case to be the next defensive player to take home the honor. The defensive lineman had six quarterback hurries and a pass defense before picking off an EJ Manuel pass and rumbling 80 yards for the pick-six to help lift the Texans past the Bills.
Through the first three games, the Patriots offense has five touchdowns. Watt has two of his own this year, and is just the second player since the merger with a receive touchdown and interception in the same season. (Ex-Pats linebacker and current Houston assistant Mike Vrabel was the first to turn the trick back in 2005.)
2. EJ Manuel is apparently suffering from a crisis of confidence. The second-year Buffalo quarterback was apparently pretty shaken in the wake of Sunday’s loss to the Texans. Manuel ended the day 21-for-44 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Texans as the Bills lost their second straight to fall to 2-2 on the young season. To be fair, things were a little shaky around Manuel, given the fact that his offensive line was struggling, there were a couple of key drops and the fire-breathing monster known as Watt was on the other side of the ball. Coach Doug Marrone said after the game there were no plans to hand the reins to backup Kyle Orton, but the idea of jumpstarting the offense with a switch at quarterback has to be entering the minds of the Buffalo coaching staff.
3. Maybe the Dolphins weren’t as dysfunctional as we thought. The week of back-and-forth between Miami coach Joe Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill ended Sunday in London, where the Dolphins absolutely crushed the Raiders, 38-14, at Wembley Stadium. Tannehill, who engaged in a weird public exchange with his coach after Philbin refused to name him the starter in the media, was an impressive 23-for-31 for 278 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Meanwhile, the Raiders, who looked good last week when they came to Foxboro and put a scare in the Patriots, were a mess. Their issues were compounded by the fact that rookie quarterback Derek Carr left the game in the third quarter, and told the media after the game that he has a high ankle sprain and sprained MCL. Yikes.
4. The Jets are in trouble. New York struggled at home against the Lions, and it was another bad outing for quarterback Geno Smith, who was 17-for-33 for 209 yards, one touchdown and one pick in a 24-17 loss to Detroit. After the game, Rex Ryan said he was standing by Smith. “I’m confident in Geno. If Geno’s healthy, then Geno Smith will start,” Ryan told reporters after the game. “I’m not gonna replace him. I feel good about Geno, and again, I think he’s gonna get it turned. He’s a tough, resilient young man, and I think we’re gonna win.” Meanwhile, it doesn’t sound like Jets fans are going to stand by Geno.
Geno Smith yelled “F— You” to a fan who was taunting him as he walked off the field. ‘ Steve Overmyer (@OvermyerTV) September 28, 2014
Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson told reporters after the game that fans who were booing Smith should “shut up.” Yikes.
5. Not everyone needs a punter.
Sunday’s game between the Packers and Bears was either the second or third game in NFL history without a punt. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-17 win over Chicago. The Packers, who had been suffering from offensive inconsistency over the course of the first three games of the year, scored on their first six possessions and finished with 358 total yards on the way to their fifth consecutive victory at Soldier Field. It was a bit of a redemption for Rodgers, who told Green Bay fans to “R-E-L-A-X” this week when they started worrying about the Packers‘ 1-2 start.
6. No one knows what to make of the Steelers.
There are weeks where the Steelers look ready to crush all those who come before them. Then, there are occasions like Sunday, where they melt down in the fourth quarter and end up losing a game to a Tampa Bay team ‘¦ that lost to the Falcons by six touchdowns a week ago. Mike Glennon hit Vincent Jackson with the game-winner with six seconds left on the way to a shocking 27-24 win over host Pittsburgh. The Steelers, who were poised to move to 3-1 with the win, fell back to .500 with the surprising last-second loss. (Pittsburgh committed a whopping 13 penalties for 125 yards.)
7. Steve Smith is never not awesome.
As promised, the gritty receiver one-upped his old team. The former Panther lit up Carolina for seven catches — including an awesome reception on a tipped ball he ended up taking for a touchdown — for 139 yards and a pair of scores on the way to a 38-10 win over the Panthers. There wasn’t “blood and guts” like he promised, but Smith, who played 13 seasons in Carolina before he was cut in the offseason, clearly enjoyed making his old team eat a little crow after the contest. “I’m 35 years old and I ran by those guys like they were schoolyard kids,” the veteran said after the game. Meanwhile, while we were all upset about the state of the Panthers’ offense, it’s worth noting that Carolina has yielded 75 points in two games.
I want to know what this kid is thinking.
8. Adam Vinatieri is some sort of superhuman.
It’s remarkable to think that the former Patriots kicker is now in his ninth season in Indy, and while the 41-year-old isn’t the kicker he once was, he’s still money when it comes to working extra points and field goals. Through four games, he’s 8-for-8 on field goal attempts and 16-for-16 on extra-point attempts, including a pair of field goals and five extra points Sunday in the 41-17 win over the Titans.
Oh, and this happened 18 years ago.
9. Chip Kelly can feel Bill Belichick‘s pain.
Philly went West on Sunday and nearly knocked off the Niners, despite the fact that the Eagles continue to have serious offensive line issues. Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis went down in Week 1, and with starting right tackle Lane Johnson already serving a four-game suspension, things got even worse when starting center Jason Kelce went down last week with a sports hernia. Despite those woes, Philly nearly pulled off the upset, despite the fact that the Eagles’ offense didn’t pass midfield until the fourth quarter and it had just two more first downs (five) than turnovers (three) late in the third quarter. Things should get better next week when Johnson is eligible to return from his ban, but the fact that Kelce and Mathis won’t be back until the second half of the season should provide some interesting phone conversation between BFF’s Kelly and Belichick when it comes to commiserating about their woes.
10. The Patriots are in first place.
The Bills’ loss to the Texans in Houston allowed the 2-1 Patriots to sneak into first place in the AFC East.