|Patriots roll Texans for an AFC championship rematch with Ravens||01.13.13 at 7:55 pm ET|
Shane Vereen tied a franchise playoff record with three touchdowns and Tom Brady threw three TD passes as the Patriots did the expected and beat the Texans, 41-28, in their AFC divisional game at Gillette Stadium. Wes Welker caught eight passes for 131 yards and Brady passed Joe Montana for most wins (17) by a quarterback in NFL playoff history. Brady, who finished 25-of-40 for 344 yards, is now 17-6 all-time in the postseason.
The win sets up the first AFC championship rematch since the Broncos and Browns in 1986-87. The Patriots will host the Ravens next Sunday evening at 6:30 at Gillette Stadium.
The three touchdowns by Vereen tied the franchise playoff record for touchdowns in a single game, held by Rob Gronkowski and Curtis Martin.
The Patriots special teams were bad from the beginning. Danieal Manning returning the opening kickoff 94 yards to the Patriots 12 yard line. But the Patriots defense held Matt Schaub and the Texans to just three yards and a 27-yard field goal from Shayne Graham.
The Patriots got the ball and went three-and-out, and lost Danny Woodhead to a left thumb injury on their first offensive play of the game. On the next drive, things got worse when the Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski when he appeared to re-injure his left forearm in trying to make a diving catch deep along the right sideline. Chandler Jones also injured his ankle in the first half and did not return.
The Patriots finally got momentum on the third drive, marching 65 yards in six plays. Vereen ran off left tackle for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead late in the first. The Patriots made it 10-3 on a 37-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski early in the second quarter.
The Patriots appeared to gain full control of the game when they went 80 yards in seven plays for a 17-3 lead. Brady hit Vereen with an eight-yard pass to the short left for the touchdown. The key play on the drive was a Brady to Welker pass down the left sideline for 47 yards to the Houston 8. On the play, Welker caught his 59th postseason pass, passing Troy Brown for the all-time franchise lead.
Welker was huge in the first half, catching six balls for 120 yards
But the first half did not end well. On the ensuing kickoff following Vereen’s second touchdown, Manning returned it 35 yards to the Houston 38. Gostkowski committed a horse collar tackle that added 15 yards. Arian Foster later ran it in from two yards to cut the lead to 17-10. The Patriots got the ball back with 1:09 left and went three-and-out. The Texans got the ball back and managed a 55-yard field goal from Graham to cut New England’s lead to 17-13 at the half. Read the rest of this entry »
|The Hot List: Best opening acts by Patriots rookies||09.12.12 at 12:42 am ET|
The performance of rookies Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Tavon Wilson in the season-opener against the Titans on Sunday got us to thinking: What were some of the best performances by Patriots first-year players in openers? And so this edition of “The Hot List” looks at the five best debuts by New England rookies.
It’s measured solely on first impressions a rookie makes in his initial game as a professional. (It has to be with the Patriots.) As a result, some of the most impressive members of the franchise, like Tom Brady (who technically became a star in his second season) and Wes Welker (who broke into the league with the Chargers and Dolphins before signing with the Patriots) are ineligible. With that understood — and with some help from our friends on Twitter — here’s a look at New England’s five favorite rookie debuts:
5. Defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower: Sept. 9, 2012, vs. Titans – The two rookies provided the oomph for a New England defense that carried the day in a 34-13 win over the Titans. Jones had five tackles (three solo) and a strip sack of Titans quarterback Jake Locker in the first half, his first as a pro. Hightower, who added five tackles (four solo) of his own, was the beneficiary of Jones’ forced fumble, coming away with the ball and rumbling into the end zone from six yards out for his first touchdown as a pro. (Defensive back Tavon Wilson also gets some credit for his work — he picked off one Locker pass in the end zone, and added a pair of passes defensed in the win.)
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|Patriots Positional Playoff Preview: Tight ends||01.04.12 at 3:08 pm ET|
With the Patriots off this weekend and the postseason ready to begin, we’ve got the Patriots Positional Playoff Preview, a weeklong, position-by-position look at the Patriots and how they look heading into the postseason. We’ve already broken down the running backs and quarterback. Now, it’s the tight ends.
Depth chart: Rob Gronkowski (90 catches, 1,327 yards, 17 receiving touchdowns), Aaron Hernandez (79 catches, 910 yards, seven touchdowns).
Overview: In just over a year, the Patriots’ passing game has evolved from a system that had almost no input from the tight ends into one that has become more reliant on tight ends than any other passing game in the league. The combination of Hernandez and Gronkowski represents a matchup nightmare for almost every opposing defense in the NFL — Hernandez, who has the build of a wide receiver, can be used as an in-line blocker, in the slot or split wide, while Gronkowski’s size and catch radius make him one of the best and most dependable targets in the league.
Gronkowski set numerous marks this year: his 1,327 receiving yards were a new record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end. In addition, he finished the season with 18 overall touchdowns (17 receiving, 1 rushing). His 17 overall touchdowns passed Curtis Martin (17 overall in 1996) for the second highest single-season total in Patriots history and the most in NFL history by a tight end. In addition, he was fourth in the league in yards after catch with 668.
It’s not just their pass-catching abilities that make them unique. In the case of Gronkowski, he has become one of the better blocking tight ends in the league, and over the last month, with the New England offensive line in a state of recent reconstruction, he has been utilized more as a blocker. Going forward, the Patriots will continue to face some elite pass rushers, and so it wouldn’t be a surprised to see Gronkowski used as a blocker more often. That would put more of a burden on Hernandez to step up his game, and down the stretch, he has certainly done that.
Best Moment: Both had several incredible moments over the course of the season, but our vote goes to Gronkowski’s performance in the Dec. 11 win over the Redskins in Washington, where he rumbled for an extraordinary 160 yards on six catches, including a Bavaro-esque 49-yard catch and run where he shook a handful of Redskins’ tacklers on the way to the Washington red zone.
Worst Moment: It’s almost nitpicking, but perhaps the worst of the season came late in the first half of the win over the Jets where Hernandez bobbled a Tom Brady pass on the goal line that would have given New England a touchdown. Instead, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie snatched it out of the air and took it back to midfield at the end of the half. As for Gronkowski, he was the second-most penalized player on the team this season with six flags against him.
By the numbers, courtesy of Nuggetpalooza: A Patriots’ tight end caught at least one pass for a gain of 20+ yards in 15 of the 16 games this season. No other team’s tight end managed such a catch in more than 12.
Money quote: “The skill set of both those players really allows us to be flexible. Not only are they good blockers, but they can catch the ball, too. You can run it behind them, you can play-action pass and then they’ve become pretty efficient in the passing game also, just to spread them out and be able to run them on different run combinations. They’re very good players.” – Brady on Gronkowski and Hernandez
|Some highlights from Bill Parcells’ Monday Q&A with the media||04.18.11 at 11:14 am ET|
Bill Parcells — along with Drew Bledsoe and Houston Antwine, one of three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame — held a conference call with the media Monday morning. (Fans can vote at Patriots.com.) Here are some of the highlights of his Q&A with the media:
You say this is a surprise … why is that?
“I don’t know. First of all, I really didn’t know much about this. I really didn’t know that this was in existence at the Patriots. Stacey was kind enough to call me and tell me about it, so it was a surprise in that matter of speaking. I really just wasn’t familiar that they had something like this going on.”
On the second stint in New England, what do you remember the most?
“Well, I remember going there, and in all honesty, the franchise was — I don’t want to say in disarray, but it certainly was unsettled. That would be the best way to put it. The ownership was unsettled, there were not a lot of people going to the games. The management of the franchise was unsettled. It was a big undertaking. I do see a lot when Robert Kraft took over the team, that was very, a major step for stability for the franchise, and for the Patriots themselves. Of course, now it’s one of the premier franchises, top three or four in the league, no doubt. Just look what’s happened in the 15 years or 16 years from then until now. It’s gone from being a place that didn’t have very good facilities to having the best. The team wasn’t great and now it’s certainly a premier team. And Bill Belichick’s done a tremendous job there, a remarkable job. It’s a model for the teams in the league there that are striving to do what the Patriots have already done. I don’t really think I had a whole lot to do with that, but I think the one thing I would say that was helpful is that we were able to, in the course of my time there, I’ll name a few guys because I was just thinking about what i was going to say: besides the obvious in Drew Bledsoe, [Willie] McGinest, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Troy Brown, [Tedy] Bruschi, Curtis Martin, Adam Vinatieri, Terry Glenn … we were able to put those players on the team to go with Ben Coates and [Bruce] Armstrong and Sam Gash and Maurice Hurst, who was a good little player, guys who were already there, and I think that was the beginning of some personnel continuity. Some of those kids have gone on to be as you know some of the great players in Patriots history. So I do take a sense of accomplishment in that because there are some real quality players there who made a significant contribution to the development of the franchise.”
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|Vote: Who was the best third-round pick in Patriots history?||04.12.11 at 12:57 am ET|
With the NFL draft on the horizon, we’re going to look back at the Patriots’ best draft picks by round, with the four best selections the franchise has made in each round. We’ve already put the best of the eighth through the fourth round in the spotlight. Now, we’ve got the best of the third round, a group that includes a pair of undeniable impact players that will likely make this a two-team race. Vote for your favorite:
Tedy Bruschi: 1996, 86th overall. This undersized defensive lineman out of Arizona made the switch to linebacker when he arrived in New England, and became a defensive stalwart with the Patriots. A Pro Bowler, he was part of five AFC Champions and three Super Bowl champions, and averaged more than 50 tackles a season over the course of his career. But even more than his on-field numbers, his attitude and intensity made him one of the most popular players in the history of New England sports — in 13 seasons in New England, he became one of the players most identified with the success of the Patriots.
Curtis Martin: 1995, 74th overall. Martin, a product of Pitt, only spent three seasons in New England, but ended up as one of the most prolific backs in franchise history, finishing with 3,799 rushing yards (fourth-best in team history). He still holds the franchise marks for most rushing attempts in a season (368), most rushing attempts in a game (40) and most rushing touchdowns in a season (14) and a game (three). In 11 seasons with the Patriots and Jets, Martin accrued 14,101 career rushing yards, good for a place in the Top 10 in NFL history. (Rather surprisingly, last year he was the first of the NFL’s Top 10 career rushers not elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot.)
Clayton Weishuhn: 1982, 60th overall. The Angelo State product was part of a brilliant coterie of New England linebackers in the early 1980s that included Andre Tippett and Steve Nelson. Weishuhn, an inside linebacker, played five seasons with the Patriots, and finished with a team-record 229 tackles in 1983.
Carl Garrett: 1969, 58th overall. A running back out of New Mexico Highlands, Garrett played four years with the Boston/New England Patriots and had 2,235 rushing yards in his time in New England. (A versatile offensive option, he also had 107 catches for 1,158 receiving yards with the Patriots as well.) A Pro Bowler, he also worked as a return man, finishing his rookie season with a 28.3 average on kick returns.
Just missing the cut: Ellis Hobbs (2005, 84th overall); Kevin Turner (1992, 71st overall); Marv Cook (1989, 63rd overall); Robert Perryman (1987, 79th overall); Stephen Starring (1983, 74th overall); Steve McMichael (1980, 73rd).
|Why I gave these three a Hall Pass||03.25.11 at 7:34 pm ET|
For the second straight year, I was honored to be asked to be a part of the Patriots Hall of Fame nomination committee, which got together Friday afternoon to take the first steps in the process that will end with another former player or coach ending up in the Patriots Hall of Fame. Writers and broadcasters (as well as employees of the team and former players) were brought together to submit candidates. The committee chooses three finalists, who will be announced on April 15, and then fans will be able to vote on one inductee.
A bunch of impressive names were part of the discussion, including coaches Bill Parcells, Raymond Berry and Chuck Fairbanks. On the offensive side of the ball, there was quarterback Drew Bledsoe, center Jon Morris, offensive tackle Leon Gray, wide receiver Irving Fryar, tight end Russ Francis and running back Curtis Martin. On defense, linemen Houston Antwine and Julius Adams and cornerback Raymond Clayborn were also brought up.
The night before, I solicited some opinions on Twitter, but after almost 90 minutes of back-and-forth — and listening to some great debate — my ballot looked like this:
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|Curtis Martin comes up short in bid for 2011 NFL Hall of Fame class||02.05.11 at 8:03 pm ET|
Cornerback Deion Sanders and running back Marshall Faulk led a class of seven new inductees into the NFL Hall of Fame. Those two first-time eligible players were joined in this year’s class by tight end Shannon Sharpe, defensive end Richard Dent, linebackers Les Richter and Chris Hanburger and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol.
Former Patriots and Jets running back Curtis Martin, a finalist for this year’s Hall of Fame class, was not selected for entry into Canton. He reportedly made the cut from 15 to 10, but did not make the next round of cuts from 10 to five Hall of Fame inductees.
Sanders, who recorded 53 interceptions in his 14-year career, is regarded as one of the best — if not the best — cover corners of all time. He also proved a dynamic kick and punt returner and occasional wide receiver during his career with the Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins and Ravens.
Faulk, the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1994, Offensive Player of the Year from 1999-2001 and league MVP in 2000, was an impact rusher and receiver, finishing his career with over 12,000 rushing yards and more than 6,000 receiving yards. In 1999, he became the second running back ever to go over 1,000 rushing and receiving yards, and he recorded a then-NFL record 26 touchdowns in 2000.
Martin, who started his career with three straight seasons of more than 1,000 yards rushing with the Patriots before jumping to the Jets as a free agent after the 1997 season, had 14,101 rushing yards in 11 seasons, the fourth most yards on the ground in NFL history.
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