|Tom Brady isn’t afraid of (preseason) blitzes: ‘You figure out how to solve the problem’||08.21.14 at 6:08 pm ET|
FOXBORO — As far as Tom Brady is concerned, go ahead and bring the heat, even in the preseason.
And certainly, with the Carolina Panthers coming to town Friday, the opponent certainly has the wherewithal to execute a blitz or two.
But usually, in the preseason, defensive coordinators like to hold off on showing too much on film when it comes to exotic or advanced defensive approaches. And offensive coordinators, similarly, do the same.
However, usual and customary are not two words commonly used to describe Rex Ryan. The Jets coach watched last Saturday as his defense was torched by Andy Dalton for 144 yards on 8-for-8 passing and a touchdown. His response? Start blitzing the Bengals second and third stringers along the offensive line.
Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander took some offense.
But if the Panthers want to do the same from the start against Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback says he’d have no problem with it, since there is no “wrong” defense to play, even in the third preseason game.
“They can blitz, they can do whatever they want to do,” Brady said. “Every defense is right. Like every call, there is risk and reward to everything. If they’re going to blitz, then you’ve got to figure out a way to beat the blitz. If you don’t fix the blitz, they’re just going to keep running them. It’s the same thing on offense.”
Then Brady got to the heart of the matter and revealed what competition is all about, even in games that don’t count.
“If you see a weakness, you’re just going to keep going to it, and that’s what separates pro-caliber players from guys who aren’t. There are guys who can fix problems and know that this is what a team is trying to do, and then you figure out how to solve the problem, and then they’ve got to work on something else. But if you know there are weaknesses, that’s what you go after. That’s what pro football is all about.
“We’ve got two games left, and they’re both very important for our season, for our preparation leading up to the opener. Coach told us we’re going to get a lot of work, and what that means I don’t know. I don’t think anyone ever knows with him. But we’ll be prepared and ready to go for 60 minutes, and hopefully it’s a good 60 minutes. We’ve had a couple doozies in the third preseason game lately, and it’d be nice to have a good one.”
Brady also took some time to talk about the other Ohio team, which named its starting quarterback this week, old friend and teammate Brian Hoyer, Brady’s back-up between 2009 and 2011. Hoyer was chosen as the Browns starting QB over Johnny Manziel this week by Cleveland coach Mike Pettine.
“I love Brian. He’s just such a great guy, person and friend. We’ve always kept in touch,” Brady said. “I’m proud of him. He’s fought through some tough circumstances over the years, being released here, going to Arizona, getting a little bit of an opportunity there, and then really taking advantage of his opportunity in Cleveland. It’s great for him, and he’s a great player, so I’m very happy for him.”
|Darrelle Revis: Day 1 vs. Redskins shows ‘physical’ Patriots D ‘getting better every day’||08.04.14 at 7:56 pm ET|
RICHMOND, Va. — Redskins coach Jay Gruden knows an aggressive defense when he sees one. As the offensive coordinator of the Bengals and newly minted Andy Dalton, he went up against the Ravens and Steelers twice a year.
On Monday, he complimented the Patriots’ aggressiveness, particularly from the secondary led by Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. He called it a “learning experience” for his offense.
“They didn’t have a problem today,” Gruden said. “There’s no referees out there. They have two very physical corners and some of their backups did a nice job as well. It’s a great test for our guys. We’re going to have to work on our releases. I think we got knocked off quite a bit today. I liked the fact that they were physical because teams are going to be physical with our guys until we can fight it off and make them pay.”
Revis had a different perspective but came away with the same feeling.
“We’re getting better every day,” Revis said. “We’re improving every day and this is the time in training camp where we get closer. It’s going well. Everybody is playing at a high level and we just have to continue that high level of playing going into the season.”
But Revis cautioned that he wasn’t focused on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin, or Tom Brady, for that matter.
“I wasn’t really focusing on how they looked,” Revis said. “I’m trying to make sure I do my job and look good out here as well. It’s just competing. That’s all we’re trying to do. Both sides are trying to get each other looks out there and just compete.
“Competition kicks at that time and there might be a couple of words out there at times. It’s all in good [spirit]. We know the Redskins just like they know us. Some of us are friends with each other. It goes back and forth. It’s just competition.”
|Which QB does best job spreading ball around in passing game?||02.18.14 at 6:00 am ET|
Piggybacking on a column we did last year about Tom Brady‘s ability to work in new receivers and spread the ball around — and with another full season in the books — we figured we should take another look at some of the league wide numbers when it comes to ball distribution in the passing game.
Using the 250-catch barometer as the mark for involvement, three over-30 veterans continue to set the standard when it comes to getting everyone involved in the passing game, as Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have managed to make stars out a variety of pass catchers on the way to record-setting seasons.
Using numbers culled from Pro Football Reference — which utilizes stats dating back to 1999 — the three are head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacking field when it comes to finding equilibrium in the passing game:
- Since 2001, Brady has completed at least 250 passes in the regular season to four different pass catchers over the course of his 13-year career as a starter: Wes Welker (563), Deion Branch (328), Troy Brown (323) and Kevin Faulk (310). Providing they stay healthy — and, in the case of Julian Edelman, return for 2013 — two more receivers could be added to the mix: Rob Gronkowski had 39 catches in an injury-shortened 2013 season, bringing his total of receptions via Brady to 223. And his 105 catches in 2013 boosted Edelman to 166 career receptions from Brady.
For those of you asking about guys who just missed out on the 250-catch mark with Brady, two jump off the page: one, Randy Moss caught 192 passes from Brady while the two were together in New England, including 98 catches in 2007 and 83 in 2009. And two, Aaron Hernandez finished with 166.
- In that same span, Manning has completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Reggie Wayne (779), Marvin Harrison (677) and Dallas Clark (387). Depending on how long he plays, Denver’s Demaryius Thomas could also be part of that group as well — he has 185 catches from Manning over the last two seasons, and could reach 250 in 2014 if he and the quarterback can both stay healthy.
To be fair to Manning, that time frame of 2001-2013 does cut off the first three seasons — from 1998 through 2000 — of his career. As a result, some of his early numbers aren’t included, particularly the formative years with Harrison, who had 276 regular-season catches with the Colts in that span. Our cutoff also means the work of an excellent pass-catching back like Edgerrin James goes unrewarded. He caught 230 passes from Manning from 2001-2005 before he departed Indy for the Cardinals. In all, James ended up catching a total of 355 passes from Manning while the two were together from 1999-2005.
- While Brady and Manning have impressive totals, when it comes to finding a variety of targets, they’re nowhere near Brees. When you combine his work in San Diego and New Orleans, the 35-year-old has complied at least 250 passes to six different receivers: Marques Colston (605), Lance Moore (346), Jimmy Graham (298 over the last four seasons), Reggie Bush (294), Pierre Thomas (284) and LaDainian Tomlinson (254). And a seventh — Darren Sproles — can hit 250 receptions from Brees in 2014. He’s already at 235 catches and counting.
When it comes to the next generation, it appears unlikely that anyone will be able to connect with six different pass catchers for at least 250 receptions. Among the quarterbacks who have been in the league for 7-10 seasons, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has Greg Jennings (324) and Jordy Nelson (252), but just missed out when Donald Driver (241) called it a career. However, his two wild cards are free agents James Jones (216) and Jermichael Finley (214) — if they both return and are healthy, Rodgers is seemingly a lock to get four pass-catchers to 250-plus receptions.
Ben Roethlisberger also has a good chance of getting to four — he’s completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Hines Ward (513), Heath Miller (420) and Antonio Brown (250), and could make it four if free agent Emmanuel Sanders (146) ends up sticking around Pittsburgh. Meanwhile Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has three, having connected for 250-plus with Roddy White (520), Tony Gonzalez (383) and Harry Douglas (205). And New York‘s Eli Manning has Hakeem Nicks (306) and Victor Cruz (241) — he appears to have just missed with Plaxico Burress (244) and Steve Smith (213).
As for the quarterbacks who have between two and five full years in the league, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has found tremendous success with Calvin Johnson (353 catches from Stafford), but Brandon Pettigrew (215) and Nate Burleson (154) are also within hailing distance of the 250-catch mark, providing Burleson somehow makes it back to Detroit. In addition, Indy’s Andrew Luck has Wayne (145), T.Y. Hilton (133) and Coby Fleener (78), while Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton has benefitted from working with AJ Green (256), Jermaine Gresham (165) and Andrew Hawkins (85).
|San Diego Chargers eliminate Cincinnati Bengals, paving way for Andrew Luck to play Patriots at Gillette Stadium||01.05.14 at 4:15 pm ET|
Andy Dalton turned in another atrocious playoff performance while Philip Rivers managed a near-perfect road playoff game as the San Diego Chargers beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-10, Sunday at an appropriately dreary Paul Brown Stadium.
Dalton threw a pair of second-half interceptions and forced his own fumble on a scramble as the Bengals fell to 0-5 in the postseason under head coach Marvin Lewis. Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in all three seasons in the NFL but has lost in the first round each time.
Rivers finished 12-of-16 for 128 yards and a touchdown for the No. 6 seed Chargers, who advance to play the No. 1 seed Broncos next Sunday in Denver. The Chargers beat the Broncos, 27-20, in Denver on Dec. 12. The Chargers trio of Ronnie Brown, Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead combined for 196 yards rushing on 40, a 4.9 yard-per-rush average.
The Chargers dominated the opening quarter, grabbing a 7-0 lead on a 5-yard TD run up the middle by former Patriots back Danny Woodhead. The Chargers ran the ball 12 times for 57 yards, averaging 4.8 yards a carry and possessing the ball for over 10 minutes of the opening quarter.
The Bengals responded with a strong second quarter, holding the ball for 10 minutes, 34 seconds, tying the game on an Andy Dalton TD pass to Jermaine Gresham just as Dalton was hit by linebacker Melvin Ingram.
The Bengals appeared to be going in for the go-ahead touchdown when Dalton connected to Giovanni Bernard at the Chargers 10. But he was stripped from behind by Donald Butler and the ball was recovered in the end zone.
After the Bengals defense forced a punt deep in San Diego territory, the Bengals marched to the Chargers 28, thanks to a 13-yard pass to Gresham, who was pushed out of bounds with 11 seconds left. But the side judge ruled Gresham was tackled in bounds and the clock ran down to two seconds.
Both the Gresham catch and Bernard fumble resulted in long reviews by referee Jeff Triplette, the same referee who allowed a controversial TD run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis against the Colts in early December.
Mike Nugent connected from 46 yards to give the Bengals a 10-7 lead at the half.
San Diego took their opening possession of the second half and marched 80 yards in 10 plays, taking the lead for good, 14-10, on a Rivers 4-yard TD pass to Ladarius Green.Dalton turned in an awful third quarter performance, capped off by a fumble on a head-first scramble that gave the Chargers the ball at the Cincinnati 46. The Chargers capitalized on a 25-yard field goal from Nick Novak, making it 17-10.
After another Dalton interception led to another Novak field goal, Ronnie Brown put the game away with a 58-yard TD run with just over two minutes left to send San Diego to Denver and Indianapolis to Foxboro next Saturday.
|Peter King on M&M: ‘Julian Edelman has a chance in the postseason to burst into America’s living rooms’||01.03.14 at 1:40 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss NFL news and expound on his prediction that the Patriots will win the Super Bowl. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
“The way I look at this postseason for New England, it’s going to be a continuation of Tom Brady making due with guys the way he’s done most of his career,” King said. “This is a redux of Troy Brown, the year that he caught all the balls. That’s the thing about this team.
“You know who kind of reminds me of Brady right now is Andrew Luck. If you look at Andrew Luck‘s last month, remember how he was a total lost sheep when he lost Reggie Wayne? They played poorly for about a month, and he couldn’t find a weapon. What happened is he adjusted. He got used to Griff Whalen and Da’Rick Rogers and a bunch of guys like that. Now he’s even throwing to Trent Richardson.
“I think what happens is you adjust to the personnel you have. Brady’s always done that. I think that Julian Edelman has a chance in the postseason to burst into America’s living rooms.”
Looking at the Patriots’ potential opponent next weekend, King said to keep an eye on the Bengals.
“I’d be afraid of Cincinnati, which is the team the Patriots are probably going to get,” King said. “I must say that I watched an awful lot of that game, too — the game earlier this year obviously when the Patriots went to Cincinnati and lost the game. And a lot of people will say, well, the torrential downpour and all that. And look, I don’t have a crystal clear memory of that. But the one thing I do remember is that for the first at least like 2 1/2 quarters it didn’t rain. It was kind of crummy weather but they were able to play. And I think if you look back at that game — I remember thinking about it — if I’m not mistaken, I think the Patriots punted like eight of their first 10 possessions or something in that game.
“I think that the Bengals, even without Geno Atkins — because remember, they lost Geno Atkins in that game — even the Bengals without Geno Atkins have been a very, very formidable foe for a lot of teams they’ve played. Look at the teams in the playoffs that Cincinnati has beaten. Even though they haven’t played maybe as tough a schedule as a team like San Diego, they’ve beaten New England, they’ve beaten Green Bay, they’ve beaten San Diego, they’ve beaten Indianapolis.
These Bengals, I wouldn’t predict them to go to Foxboro and win a game, but this is going to be one of the tougher divisional tests the Patriots that have faced.”
|Fantasy Football: Week 17 starts, sits||12.27.13 at 10:38 am ET|
Welcome to the final installment of the 2013 starts and sits. Week 17 is always tricky, which is why the vast majority of fantasy leagues opt to use Week 16 as their bowl week. It’s tricky because you never know which teams are going to pull their starters early and which teams will play to win for 60 minutes. I’ll do my best to warn you off of a few options and to highlight some safer plays. We’ll be doing full Week 17 lineup rankings at Rotobahn, so feel free to head over if you require any additional clarity. I’ll also be back at WEEI at 11 a.m. Sunday for our final chat, so stop by if you have any lineup questions.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Browns
They play at 1 p.m., so the Steelers will go out there guns blazing to see if they can put some pressure on the teams ahead of them. They post big numbers when they get the offense going, so Roethlisberger is a solid option in any league this week against a Browns defense that’s been shaky lately.
Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Jaguars
He’s got a decent home matchup and it’s indoors, so we don’t need to worry about weather. The Colts have something to play for at this point, though they would need some help from the Patriots and Bengals. It’s an early game, so they won’t know their fate when they play. Luck is a viable starter in any home matchup. Start him if you need him.
Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Ravens
The Bengals play early and they can put pressure on the Patriots in the race for the bye if they can win. You can count on the Bengals pushing as hard as they can for four quarters. Dalton is a solid play if you need a Week 17 quarterback. His offensive weaponry makes him dangerous on a weekly basis.
Kirk Cousins, Redskins at Giants
If you really need an option, Cousins should give you solid production, though this is not as good a matchup as he had last week. Washington’s temporary starter is a viable option in 12-team leagues with a hot No. 1 receiver and a stout running game to work off of. There is a chance of rain in the forecast, but nothing as epic as what we saw last week.
|Fantasy Football: Week 16 starts, sits||12.20.13 at 9:09 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 16 starts and sits! I’ve tried to find some good recommendations that aren’t too obvious. I’ve thrown in a few that I just wanted to emphasize, like Chris Johnson and Shane Vereen, who I think should be locked into lineups. Obviously, there is a lot of talent that we do not address in this article, so hit Rotobahn for our full lineup rankings. And on Sunday, stop by WEEI for our Sunday chat at 11 a.m. I’ll be happy to address any last-minute decisions you may have. Good luck to all this week! Bring home the hardware!
Kirk Cousins, Redskins vs. Cowboys
Talk about tricky! There are some very compelling reasons to consider Cousins as your quarterback for Week 16. The obvious one is the matchup at home against the defenseless Cowboys. I know a lot of people are talking about risk. Sure, there always is some uncertainly with an inexperienced quarterback. Then again, there’s risk playing Tom Brady on the road vs. the Ravens. At least there is from a fantasy football perspective. With Cousins, we see a lot more reasons to play him than to sit him. Here’s the most compelling one: Washington is marketing the player. Cousins is an asset that the Redskins need to maximize, as they have holes all over their roster. A lot of football experts see Cousins as a potential NFL starter, and we agree. The Redskins wants draft pick compensation for Cousins, and they are going to throw the football. And, with their defense, they’ll need to do it for four quarters. Cousins can help you if you have a need at quarterback. He’s an obvious choice for those who’ve been using Robert Griffin III.
Andrew Luck, Colts at Chiefs
Quite simply, he is capable in any matchup. I would not hesitate to play Luck in Week 16. Yes, the matchup is tough, but Luck has stepped it up on the road against tough defenses before. Look at what he did to the Bengals a few weeks ago. Luck is a viable option in any format this week. Check out our lineup rankings if you have a strong second option to consider.
Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Vikings
As with Luck, Dalton falls outside of my top 12 for Week 16 but remains a very solid option with plenty of scoring potential. Dalton can be your starter this week if you need him. He has outstanding receiving options, and most of them are red zone guys.
Alex Smith, Chiefs vs. Colts
It’s often ugly or random, but Smith almost always ends up with good numbers at the end of the day. Another fact worthy of a mention is his success at home, where he’s had only one weak fantasy start all year long. Smith can be your quarterback this week if you need him.
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