|Shea McClellin does his best Jamie “The Freak” Collins impersonation with blocked field goal||12.13.16 at 8:21 am ET|
FOXBORO — Shea McClellin remembers the first time he saw Jamie Collins block a kick.
It was against the Indianapolis Colts in October, 2015. Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri was setting up for an extra point at the end of the game against the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium. The kick was blocked and preserved New England’s seven-point lead at 34-27, which turned out to be the final score.
On Monday night, the inspired McClellin did a fair impersonation of Collins. But this time it was an even bigger moment. It came in the first quarter as the Patriots were protecting a 2-0 lead. McClellin timed his run at the line of scrimmage and leaped center, without touching anyone, and rushed in on Justin Tucker to block the 34-yard attempt.
“I just remember him skyrocketing over the center and blocking the kick,” McClellin recalled after New England’s 30-23 win. “I think I was watching it at home, thinking, ‘Wow, that’s guy’s pretty sick.’ He’s a freak, so. That’s Jamie, so. It comes from practice and watching film.
“Just time it up right. That’s all you’ve got to do, time it up right. Fortunately I did, but it’s not all me though. The big guys up front [Alan] Branch and Malcom [Brown] did a great job of keeping those guys [on the Ravens] down.”
As he always does, Bill Belichick noted the details that went into the block on special teams.
“Shea’s pretty athletic,” Belichick said. “He timed it up perfectly and made a good, clean jump and a good, clean block. Joe Judge did a great job of designing the play. We worked on it all week and just felt like we could take advantage of that and Shea really executed it perfectly, as did the guys up front. Malcom and Alan were charging in a way to kind of keep the pad level down for the field goal team so we could get through there.”
To McClellin, it all comes back to being ready for the moment.
“It just comes from practicing the last couple of weeks and watching film with the special teams coordinator Joe Judge and Bubba [Ray Ventrone], so it just comes from that – preparation and film study,” McClellin said.
Did McClellin ever pull this off before with the Bears, or anywhere else?
“No, never. I never have, but like I said, it wasn’t all me. It was the guys up front [who helped] as well,” McClellin added.
|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price explain how Tom Brady outgunned Joe Flacco and how Patriots beat Ravens||at 1:19 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots overcome their own miscues and Tom Brady outduels Joe Flacco as the Patriots improve to 11–2 with a big win over the Ravens Monday night inside Gillette Stadium. Mike Petraglia and Chris Price have your recap.
|Snap Judgments: Tom Brady, Patriots air it out, overcome miscues to beat Ravens||12.12.16 at 11:50 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tom Brady outgunned Joe Flacco Monday night.
In their first meeting since New England’s epic 35-31 win in the 2014 AFC divisional playoffs, Brady recorded his ninth career 400-yard passing game and LeGarrette Blount tied Curtis Martin’s single-season franchise mark with his 14th touchdown as the Patriots held on for a 30-23 win at Gillette Stadium Monday night.
The Patriots improved to 11-2 and now stand a full game ahead of the Raiders and Chiefs for the top spot in the AFC with three weeks remaining. The Ravens fell to 7-6 and one game behind the Steelers in the AFC North.
The Patriots built a 23-3 lead only to see special teams miscues from rookie Cyrus Jones and Matthew Slater allow the Ravens back in the game.
But on the first play after field goal cut New England’s lead to three, Brady connected with Chris Hogan for 79 yards to put the game on ice. Brady finished 25-of-38 for 406 yards and three touchdowns. Blount finished with 18 carries and 72 yards, giving him 1,029 yards, a new career high.
Flacco set a new franchise record with 37 completions. He finished 37-of-52 for 324 yards and two touchdowns and an interception.
While Tom Brady and the offense struggled to find their rhythm early it was the defense and the special teams that provided the early spark. After the Patriots went 3-and-out for the second straight series to start the game, Brady went over to the sideline screaming and yelling. He had just missed Julian Edelman on a seam route at the Ravens 5, forcing another punt.
Ryan Allen then boomed a 56-yard punt down to Devin Hester. The veteran returner let it bounce and Jonathan Jones raced past him, caught the ball in the air, flipped it back to Matthew Slater, who downed it at the Baltimore 1.
That play might have been the key play of the game. On their first snap, Joe Flacco handed off to Kenneth Dixon, who ran off right guard. He never made it to the line as Malcom Brown blew past fullback Kyle Juszczyk and tackled Dixon in the end zone for New England’s third safety of the year and a 2-0 lead with 10:47 left in the first quarter.
Special teams did it again after the Ravens forced a punt after the safety. The Ravens, thanks to a 40-yard pass play to Juszczyk and a 15-yard personal foul on Malcolm Butler, had the ball at Patriots 16. But on a 34-yard-field goal attempt by Justin Tucker, Shea McClellin pulled a page out of Jamie Collins’ playbook and jumped the center on a perfectly-timed leap and blocked the field goal. The Patriots took the ensuing possession and marched 74 yards in 10 plays, capped by a one-yard plunge by LeGarrette Blount. The touchdown not only put the Patriots up, 9-0, it gave Blount 14 touchdowns on the season, matching the single-season record held by Curtis Martin in 1995 and ’96.
The Patriots went up, 16-0 on the next drive when Brady marched the Patriots 89 yards in eight plays. That drive featured the explosiveness of James White. The Patriots running back took a short pass over the middle and raced 61 yards down to the Ravens 22. Five plays later, Brady hit Malcolm Mitchell over the middle for six yards and a touchdown.
[For a full box score and stats, click here.]
|Jonathan Kraft takes a shot at Deflategate 2.0: ‘If the same mistakes become a pattern, that’s a problem’||at 8:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Jonathan Kraft could barely bite his tongue Monday night when asked about Deflategate 2.0.
The Patriots team president was asked about his reaction to the Giants claiming the Steelers were playing with deflated footballs in Pittsburgh’s win at Heinz Field on Dec. 4. The Giants measured the balls to be 11.4 and 11.8 PSI.
“I haven’t followed it that closely and I think you can probably figure out what my personal feelings on this,” Kraft said on the team’s pregame radio show. “But what I’ll say is this: In all our businesses, we tell our managers that you can make mistakes and make errors but if the same mistakes become a pattern, that’s a problem.
“As I understand it, I haven’t looked at the temperatures, but I understand it was cold and the wind chills were below freezing. It was a chilly day, and that the balls measure in the low-to-mid 11 [PSI]. And if the balls were set at that midrange, 12.8 to 13, that would make a lot of sense, I am told, given the atmospherics.
“If that was the case, the league has now learned what the ideal gas law is. I think that the league has also learned that when situations like that come up, it’s good to get the correct information out, and they obviously did that. How I feel personally is a different issue. We’re at the top of the AFC East and we’re battling for seeds and that’s the focus right now. On a personal level, if you were to guess what my personal feeling is [you could probably guess]. Listen, under oath, the league admitted they didn’t know what the Ideal Gas Law was. The personal feelings are what you would expect them to be.”
What really bothered Patriots fans was the tweet from NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy that there were no “chain of command” issues, which was one of the issues at the heart of the initial Deflategate debacle.
“I don’t even know what that means so I can’t opine on it,” Kraft said in a dismissive tone. “I don’t know what that means.”
Another point of contention for Patriots fans is the report from Jason Cole that no discipline was expected because of the longstanding good relationship between the Rooney (Steelers) and Mara (Giants) families.
“I don’t want to go after Jason Cole. The Maras and Rooneys obviously, have been in that room for generations and are a big part of the league,” Kraft said. “I think if there’s a competitive issue, I don’t think the personal relationship [affects discipline]. I do think the Rooneys and the Maras, there’s a close relationship there.”
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|Scene-setting: Patriots and Ravens square off in the clear and cold as Bill Belichick set to make history||at 4:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After three weeks of inferior competition, the time has finally come for the Patriots to face a real challenge as they look to officially clinch a playoff berth for the eighth straight season. The Patriots would become the second NFL team (and first in the AFC) to clinch a playoff spot. The 11-2 Cowboys have already locked up their spot in the postseason.
The 10-2 Patriots host the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens in Monday night football at Gillette Stadium, the first Monday night meeting between the two since their epic meeting on Dec. 3, 2007, when Tom Brady found Jabar Gaffney in the back corner of the end zone in the closing minute.
That night, the 4-7 Ravens were looking to spring the upset on ESPN behind Kyle Boller in what became the most-watched game in the history of cable television.
That game featured several twists and turns in the final two minutes. Facing a 4th-and-1 from the Ravens 30 with 1:48 remaining, Tom Brady attempted a sneak and was stopped short of the first down. But the play was nullified by a timeout called by Ravens’ defensive coordinator Rex Ryan just before the snap.
On the next attempt, Heath Evans lost a yard on the next try but a false start penalty by Russ Hochstein nullified the play. On 4th-and-6, Brady scrambled for the first down and additionally, Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle was penalized for illegal contact to give the Patriots another five yards, moving them to the Ravens’ 18-yard line with 1:38 left on the clock.
A 5-yard Kevin Faulk rush and two incompletions gave the Patriots another fourth down situation. Brady’s throw to Ben Watson in the end zone fell incomplete, but the Patriots again received a fresh set of downs after Ravens defensive back Jamaine Winborne was called for defensive holding. On 1st-and-goal from the Ravens 8 with 55 seconds remaining, the Patriots took their first lead since the first quarter on a Gaffney touchdown reception that was upheld by official review.
Bart Scott lost his mind and drew a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties for throwing a penalty flag into the stands. Ed Reed was called for offsides on the kickoff and the Patriots kicked off from the Ravens’ 35. The Ravens completed two passes, bringing them to their own 45 with eight seconds left. Boller threw a Hail Mary pass that was caught by wide receiver Mark Clayton at the Patriots’ 3-yard line. But he was tackled shy of the end zone as time expired.
The stakes are even higher this time around. The Patriots, while not able to clinch the AFC East, can clinch a playoff berth while the Ravens need a win to keep pace with the 8-5 Steelers atop the AFC North.
Joe Flacco is the only quarterback in the NFL that has two playoff wins in Foxboro, beating the Patriots in Jan. 2010 and Jan. 2013 in the AFC championship. Flacco nearly had a third but the Ravens couldn’t hold onto leads of 14-0 and 28-14 in the AFC divisional round in Jan. 2015 and was intercepted by Duron Harmon in the closing seconds to seal New England’s 35-31 win.
The Patriots enter game with the sixth-ranked offense in the NFL while the Ravens, behind a run defense allowing just 73.8 yards per game, lead the NFL in overall defense. After Seattle allowed 38 points on Sunday in Green Bay, the Patriots and Ravens are tied for fewest points allowed (207) in the NFL heading into the Week 14 finale.
|Malcolm Mitchell not worried about fantasy football: ‘Don’t think about anything more than they tell me to do’||12.09.16 at 1:18 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The rookie wide receiver of the Patriots out of the University of Georgia really sounds like he gets it.
Malcolm Mitchell refuses to be distracted by anything, not injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola that affect his role in the passing game. Not his first Monday night football appearance. And certainly not his new celebrity as the most-added receiver in fantasy football leagues over the last several weeks.
Mitchell in the last three games has 17 catches, 222 yards and three touchdowns in wins over the 49ers, Jets and Rams.
“I’ve said from the day I entered [Patriots], I feel blessed to even have the opportunity to be a part of this organization,” Mitchell said. “From the time they drafted me to now, I still feel the same way. The philosophy around here is pretty simple, and it’s said all the time: Just do your job. I just do what they tell me. And that’s how I like to keep it. I just keep it that simple, honestly. I don’t think about anything more than they tell me to do.”
Mitchell said there’s no added pressure with the likes of Gronk and Amendola out of commission.
“If they tell me to go in, I go in,” Mitchell said.
As for fantasy implications, Mitchell is not the guy to ask.
“Not really at all. I don’t know much about it,” Mitchell said Friday. “I have family members mention it but I never know what they’re talking about. I’m not sure how that works. I don’t know. I need to look back through my phone. If someone said that, I probably have no idea what they’re talking about.”
As for his status as most-added receiver in many leagues?
“That’s cool,” Mitchell said, adding, “I really have no idea about fantasy football.”
Jacoby Brissett, who is two lockers down from Mitchell, yelled, “I got you on my team.”
Mitchell’s real team will have its hands full with the 7-5 Ravens Monday night.
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|Devin McCourty ready for daredevil Joe Flacco, Steve Smith and Ravens ‘West Coast’ offense||12.07.16 at 8:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The last time Devin McCourty went up against Joe Flacco and the Ravens, the end result was great. But the journey to a 35-31 win in the AFC divisional round was like pulling teeth.
Even with an interception in the game, it wasn’t an experience that McCourty tries to recall all that often, partially because Flacco and the Ravens were able to score at will on the Patriots secondary, a secondary that also featured Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Flacco threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers and Baltimore had leads of 14-0 and 28-14.
“We won. That’s it. I mean it was a tough game,” McCourty recalled Wednesday. “We were down 14 twice but just kept playing. [We were] able to make some plays offensively and defensively that really decided that game, but a little bit different teams on both sides personnel-wise, so we’ll see if that even has any bearing on this one.”
That was the game McCourty picked off Flacco, the first playoff interception of Flacco’s career. In that game, Steve Smith caught the first of four touchdown passes from Flacco. What has made 37-year-old Steve Smith so good for so long?
“I don’t know him personally but I would probably guess his work ethic,” McCourty said. “To still play at a high level I think one thing is obviously he’s very competitive. He goes out there and competes his butt off every game for 60 minutes. To keep getting older and keep getting better you have to probably have a tremendous work ethic and he obviously has that and he [has been] a tough matchup for years in this league.”
Smith is also one of the biggest trash talkers in modern NFL history.
“I don’t even think I need to say anything. I mean guys are competitive,” McCourty said Wednesday. “You’ve just got to go out there and play. You know, each week you’ve got guys that talk and obviously he’s elite at it, definitely. You’ve watched him do it for years. But I think it starts with going out there and playing well.”
The Ravens have gone through several offensive coordinators in the last several seasons. In 2012, on their way to Super Bowl XLVII, they fired Cam Cameron and replaced him with Jim Caldwell. In 2014, Gary Kubiak replaced Caldwell. This year, they fired Marc Trestman after a loss to the Redskins and promoted Marty Mornhinweg.
“If we do those things then we don’t have to worry about anything that’s being said out there and just have to focus on what we’re doing,” McCourty added. “I think just from a total team standpoint and aspect, we understand how important that is to do what’s best for the team out there on the field and we’ve talked about that numerous times as players, and coaches tell us. So I don’t think that will be an issue for us.”
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