|Jared Goff trying to become first rookie QB to beat Bill Belichick, Patriots in first start against New England in Foxboro since 2001||11.30.16 at 10:43 am ET|
FOXBORO — Jared Goff is facing an uphill battle this weekend against the Patriots.
Since 2001, no rookie quarterback in his first or second start against the Patriots has beaten Bill Belichick in New England. Overall — both home and away — Belichick has faced 22 quarterbacks in that time, and he’s 17-5 against them.
Goff, the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, will be making the third start of his career. In his first two starts — both losses — he’s gone 37-for-63 (59 percent) for 348 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 83.3. Belichick said Wednesday he’s been impressed with Goff’s development to this point in his career.
“He’s very talented,” Belichick said. “He’s athletic. There were times where New Orleans had guys coming free, he was able to escape them in the pocket and get outside and buy extra time on the play. He’s athletic, has a good arm [and] can make the throws. [He] threw a post down there that they just missed on, but it was a good throw, 50, 55 yards. I don’t think talent is the issue here. I’m sure he’s going to get better each week, like most young players do.”
When it comes to knocking off the Patriots, Goff would be wise to consider some of the best performances by rookie quarterbacks against Belichick over the last dozen-plus years. The rookies who had the most success against the Patriots? Geno Smith was the last first-year signal-caller to beat Belichick and New England, with that victory coming in 2013 at MetLife. Russell Wilson did the same in 2012 with the Seahawks in Seattle, while Colt McCoy (2010) and Mark Sanchez (2009) also pulled off early wins over New England.
But the most impressive was probably in 2004, when Ben Roethlisberger, in his first start against the Patriots as a rookie, went 18-for-24 with 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That contest, a 34-20 win over New England, also halted the Patriots’ 21-game win streak.
Here’s the complete list of rookie quarterbacks against Belichick and the Patriots since 2001:
|Scene-setting from Pittsburgh: Wind a factor as Patriots battle short-handed Steelers||10.23.16 at 8:41 am ET|
PITTSBURGH — The 5-1 Patriots will have to deal with some wind as they visit the 4-2 Steelers at Heinz Field in a battle of AFC division leaders.
The forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies and relatively mild temperatures in the low-to-mid 60s for the 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff. By the end of the game, the temperatures should be in the mid-50s.
It could be gusty at times with winds averaging around 11 MPH out of the southwest.
That wind is always a factor for kickers who kick into the south end of Heinz Field, the end closest to the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, forming the Ohio River.
Those conditions could provide an added challenge for Stephen Gostkowski, who comes into the game in one of the very rare slumps of his career. He missed his first extra point of the season last week against the Bengals and he is 9-for-12 this year in field goals.
The Steelers are playing this game without several key players on offense, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (knee surgery), receiver Markus Wheaton (shoulder) and DeAngelo Williams (knee). On defense, the Steelers will be without left defensive end Cameron Heyward (hamstring) for a second straight week.
In Roethlisberger’s place, Landry Jones is making his third career NFL start. He lost the only game he’s finished as a starter. Against the Browns last season in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger came on in relief and threw three touchdown passes in a 30-9 win.
This is the first time since 2008 that the Patriots-Steelers game won’t be a matchup of Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. That year, Roethlisberger was opposed by Matt Cassel and the Steelers prevailed, 33-10, with Roethlisberger throwing two touchdowns and an interception on Nov. 30, 2008. Brady has gone 3-1 against Roethlisberger since and is 6-2 overall (including 2004 AFC championship) in head-to-head matchups against his Pittsburgh counterpart.
The Patriots are in much better shape. Jamie Collins (and his hair) made the trip to Pittsburgh Saturday and figures to be active for the game after missing last week with a hip issue. The Patriots did rule out defensive linemen Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder) and Vincent Valentine (back) Saturday night, leaving the Patriots with just three healthy true interior linemen in Alan Branch, Malcom Brown and Anthony Johnson. But Jabaal Sheard and Trey Flowers do have experience on the inside and likely could fill in in a pinch.
|Scouting Report: What you have to know about Patriots-Steelers||10.22.16 at 11:29 am ET|
What you have to know when the Patriots and Steelers meet Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh:
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL
The run defense totals against the Steelers have to be put in context, but no matter the situation, I can’t stop looking at the Miami-Pittsburgh boxscore and the whopping 222 rushing yards that were allowed by the Steelers. Holy moly. (Jay Ajayi had 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, including 153 in the second half as Miami gave him the ball time and again in hopes of helping protect the lead.) That came after Pittsburgh held four of its first five opponents under 100 yards rushing. In all, the Steelers are 13th in the league against the run, having allowed an average of 101.2 rushing yards per game, so the numbers are skewed a bit by what happened against the Dolphins. While every situation and every week is different, the feeling here is that if the Patriots get their chances — that is to say, get up early and are able to control the tempo — they should hand the ball to Blount about a zillion times in the second half. As expected, Blount’s production has taken a hit the last two weeks with Tom Brady back, but he’s still seventh in the league with 439 yards rushing. The 3.7 yards per carry isn’t so hot, but his six rushing touchdowns more than make up for it. If New England takes a comfortable second-half lead, look for Blount to get a lot of work.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL
Brady (76 percent completion rate, 782 passing yards, six touchdowns, no INTs, passer rating of 135.5) has an almost impeccable track record against the Steelers: In eight career games against Pittsburgh, he’s 6-2 and has averaged 326 passing yards and almost three touchdowns per contest. In his last five starts against Pittsburgh, Brady has 17 touchdowns and no interceptions, with a 127.9 passer rating. Bottom line? The names and faces might change, but he’s always been a pretty safe bet to light up the Steelers hyper-aggressive defense. Pittsburgh will be forced to try and stop New England’s double tight-end set, which managed to overwhelm the Bengals in the second half last week. Rob Gronkowski (13 catches, 282 yards, 1 TD) appears to be back to his old self, while Martellus Bennett (26 catches, 362 yards, 4 TDs) has made an excellent complementary fit alongside him. Julian Edelman (28 catches, 261 yards) has been slowed the last few weeks, but should be in for his fair share of targets, along with Danny Amendola (13 catches, 160 yards, 2 TDs), Chris Hogan (13 catches, 275 yards, 1 TD) and James White (25 catches, 212 yards, 2 TDs).
Brady can talk as nicely as he wants to about the Steelers, but the fact is that they’ve had trouble defending anyone you could call an even slightly better than average quarterback. Pittsburgh has yielded an average of 294 passing yards per game, which puts them 29th in the league through six games: Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton and Carson Wentz threw for more than 300 yards on the Steelers. The Steelers struggle to get consistent pressure, as they have just eight sacks and three picks in six games. (Only four teams have fewer interceptions than Pittsburgh.) Ross Cockrell and William Gay are the Steelers’ two lead corners, and Cockrell leads the team with seven passes defensed.
|Handicapping a weird NFL MVP race: Does Tom Brady actually have a shot?||10.20.16 at 11:19 am ET|
This is shaping up to be one of those year’s with no slam-dunk MVP candidate. So after six weeks, who has the best shot at the title? In no particular order, here’s our current top 10.
Quarterback Tom Brady: Despite the fact that he missed the first four games, the quarterback has suddenly injected himself into the MVP discussion with a dynamite pair of games, the likes of which we haven’t seen from him before.
Tom Brady has a passer rating of 135.5 after his first 2 games of 2016, his highest rating after 2 games of any career season #Patriots
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) October 16, 2016
As strange as it sounds, even after his four-game exile to start the season. he’s as good a candidate as anyone at this point on the calendar. Overall, Brady has completed 76 percent of his passes and thrown for 782 yards, to go along with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Unless someone on a high-profile team gets hot and separates himself from the rest of the pack (like a 20-sack season from Von Miller, for example), he should be able to stick around and be a part of the conversation, provided he stays healthy. (At least the oddsmakers like his chances.)
Linebacker Von Miller: You can certainly make a case for the best defensive player on the best defense in the league, especially (as we said) if he’s able to break out with some sort of big numbers. He’s on his way with a league-best 7.5 sacks in six games. From this viewpoint, as long as the Broncos remain in the race, Miller will get plenty of votes.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott: Why not? The Elliott/Dak Prescott combo has injected new life into the Dallas offense. Elliott has 703 rushing yards through six games, and a 2,000-yard season and postseason berth for the Cowboys would certainly get him MVP consideration. He could end up splitting votes with Prescott — who will be the default Dallas candidate, especially if he continues to play well — but from this viewpoint, we’d be more inclined to cast our ballot for Elliott.
Quarterback Matt Ryan: The Falcons are a surprising 4-2, and the 31-year-old Ryan is a big reason why. The former BC product has completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,075 yards, with 15 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a passer rating of 117.9 (best in the NFL among starters). It might not be sustainable, but he’s made as good a case as anyone to be consider the first ex-Boston College player to win an NFL MVP award.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: Roethlisberger is out for this week’s game against the Patriots, but through the first six games, he’s led the Steelers to a 4-2 starts, and has been right there when it comes to statistical totals. The Steelers’ signal-caller is at or near the top of the league in most major passing categories, including completion rate (64 percent), total passing yards (1,685), touchdowns (16), just six picks and a passer rating of 99.2.
Quarterback Russell Wilson: Wilson will never overwhelm you with crazy numbers, but his ability to keep his head in big games as the quarterback for one of the best teams in the league wins him a spot on this list. The Seahawks are 4-1, while Wilson is clicking with a 66 percent completion rate, 1,334 passing yards, five touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 97. Again, not overwhelming, but his performance as the centerpiece of one of the best team’s in the league should be enough to keep him in the conversation.
|Mike Tomlin on why Steelers ruled Ben Roethlisberger out so early: ‘We’re a transparent group. We don’t hide’||10.19.16 at 5:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger injured his knee in Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins.
Instead of perhaps having the Patriots guess for a few days with who would start at quarterback this Sunday, the Steelers officially ruled Roethlisberger out on Tuesday and named Landry Jones the starter.
“We’re a transparent group. We don’t hide. We are who we are,” Steelers coaching Mike Tomlin said on a conference call with New England reporters on Wednesday. “He had a surgical procedure to address his knee issue so to eliminate any potential questions or distractions regarding his availability and get firmly focused on the task at hand with the man playing quarterback that’s playing quarterback this week. That’s the approach.”
Another topic that came up on the call were technological issues on the sidelines.
The Patriots had trouble this past Sunday and the last time the two teams met, the Steelers had issues when they heard the Patriots’ radio broadcast over their headsets during the Week 1 matchup in 2015 at Gillette Stadium.
“We’ve had some technological issues on the sidelines, particularly in recent years, so that’s nothing new,” Tomlin said.
The Patriots enter the game 5-1, while the Steelers are 4-2, but are expected to be without Roethlisberger for 4-6 weeks after surgery on Monday.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable on whether Patriots really have anything to fear in Pittsburgh||at 4:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Do the Patriots stand any chance of losing this weekend in Pittsburgh without Ben Roethlisberger? Bill Belichick is getting his team ready and amped for Heinz Field. WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable have your preview.
|Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, Antonio Brown could still give Pats D headaches, even without Big Ben||10.18.16 at 10:26 pm ET|
Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia know full well that all is not lost in Pittsburgh just because Ben Roethlisberger is out this week following a procedure Monday to clean up torn meniscus in his knee.
The Steelers still have the likes of Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams and Antonio Brown.
Even if it’s just Landry Jones throwing the passes, those are still three of the best weapons in football.
Since coming back from his three-game suspension to start the season, Bell is averaging 5.5 yards a carry. Only Miami’s Jay Ajayi (5.7) and Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy (5.6) are doing better this year. Throw in the 3.7 average and 275 yards of Williams, who filled the bill nicely in the first three weeks and you have 538 yards in their feature running game. That would put them second in the NFL behind McCoy’s 587 yards.
“He’s not only a good runner but a good receiver,” Bill Belichick said. “He does a great job with the ball in his hands however they get it to him. Tackling will definitely be an issue for us. [He has] good balance, good vision and I’d say he’s a very determined runner. He does a good job of fighting for extra yards, keeping his balance, but just making it difficult, too, to get him down. But, you know, the Steelers have a lot of good skill players. He’s certainly one of them but the receivers do an excellent job of attacking all areas of the field.”
Brown is tied with Jarvis Landry for second in the NFL with 41 catches. His five touchdown catches are tied with Michael Crabtree for most in the NFL.
“They’ve got great vertical receivers with [Sammie] Coates and [Darrius] Heyward-Bey, [Markus] Wheaton as well as Brown, of course,” Belichick added. “They’re great catch-and-run players as well, like how Heyward-Bey scored on the reverse last week. There are a lot of threats there. Certainly Bell is a big one. Williams; we’ve got to be ready for all of these guys. They can all do a lot of damage.”
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