|Setting the scene: Patriots-Dolphins||12.02.12 at 10:39 am ET|
Rain and temperatures in the mid-70s are expected for the 1 p.m. kickoff as the Patriots look to clinch their 10th AFC East title in 12 seasons with a win over the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.
The Patriots head into the game with three players already ruled out, as Rob Gronkowski (forearm), Chandler Jones (ankle) and Logan Mankins (ankle) will all miss the game.
Julian Edelman did practice this week after suffering a concussion in the team’s last game, 11 days ago on Thanksgiving night. But he was limited and was officially questionable for the game. Edelman was one of 15 players listed as questionable on the team’s official injury report as of Friday afternoon.
The Dolphins, by contrast, are relatively healthy, listing only nine players on their entire report, with eight probable and one questionable.
Much has been made of the fact this week – and rightfully so – that the Patriots have been become automatic in the second half of seasons under Bill Belichick.
They are 19-0 in the second half of seasons, dating to their last loss, Jan. 3, 2010, which marked the 2009 season finale. That was the game in which Wes Welker blew out his knee in Houston and the Patriots lost a double-digit lead and fell to the Texans, 34-27.
They are also an NFL-best 41-5 in the month of December since 2001, a record that includes seven perfect Decembers. Belichick is 43-7 in December with the Patriots, the best record in the month for one coach with one team in NFL history. George Seifert (49ers) is second at 27-6.
A win today would also ensure New England its 12th consecutive winning season. Only San Francisco (1983-98) and Dallas (1970-85) with 16 straight winning campaigns have better in NFL history.
|Bobby Carpenter on Bill Belichick: ‘I’m not trying to get inside his mind’||06.14.12 at 5:03 pm ET|
FOXBORO — A player new to the Bill Belichick program in Foxboro is well advised to stick close to the “Patriot Way” during minicamp, training camp and whenever he steps inside the walls of Gillette Stadium.
Linebacker Bobby Carpenter has apparently read the manual.
Asked what he thought of Belichick giving the team the day off on the third and final day of minicamp, Carpenter played it pretty safe.
“You’ll have to ask Bill on that. Maybe he was so mad everyone was doing so poorly he wanted to get us out of here,” Carpenter joked. “You’ll have to ask him why he does the things he does. I’m not trying to get inside his mind.”
So, what exactly was in Belichick’s mind in bringing the six-year NFL veteran into Foxboro for a look-see with the Patriots after spending the last two seasons with the Lions?
“It’s been good,” Belichick began. “Bobby has been here all spring. He’s worked hard. Good athlete, runs well, smart guy, has some experience. He’s done some different things in his career – played inside, played outside, played in sub, played in the kicking game. He’s been a pretty versatile player for a couple of different organizations, three [organizations]. He’s fit in well; he’s done a nice job. We’ve asked him to do some different things and he mentally, physically and experience-wise has looked pretty comfortable doing those. I think he’s in good position to go to camp and we’ll see what happens in training camp.”
Carpenter was signed by Belichick and the Patriots on April 5 as a free agent. Belichick was clearly impressed with the versatility he showed in the last two years with the Lions.
“Played more in their sub than in the regular defense, although he played some in there too,” Belichick continued. “He’s played inside and outside, so he’s played both middle linebacker and the Sam and Will, both on and off the line of scrimmage in a 4-3 and 3-4, going back to Dallas and Miami and Detroit was the 4-3 package with the off the line, three linebacker scheme, four man line scheme. He’s done a lot of different things. He’s a very versatile player and he’s smart so learning really hasn’t been a problem for him. He’s been able to handle multiple responsibilities so far.”
Versatility in the front seven is something already very apparent to Carpenter.
“We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that can do a lot of different things and I think they’re going to try to take advantage of that,” Carpenter said. “They’re moving guys around, doing all kinds of different stuff. whatever the coaches can scheme up and find that fits our talents the best, that’s probably what well do. hopefully it works pretty well.
“It’s been exciting. It’s been great being here with the guys, getting acclimated to everything, offseason program, OTAs and then minicamp. It’s been great just to kind of get a feel for how everyone plays, get to know guys, so when you’re coming into camp you ahve a strong relationship. I think that really helps.”
Carpenter has never really fulfilled the promise he showed at Ohio State, a potential that made him the Cowboys’ first-round pick – 18th overall – in the 2006 NFL Draft. In his four years in “Big D” he failed to establish a regular starting role, racking up 96 tackles. He was also the target of harassment.
During a 2008 episode of “Hard Knocks”, Carpenter was continuously beaten in a pads and shorts practice by Cowboys right tackle Marc Colombo. That was the episode Colombo referred to Carpenter as “Barbie Carpenter” as Colombo made fun of his shoulder length blonde hair (which he still has – see photo above) and his lack of toughness. Carpenter’s highlight came in 2009, when he was the primary nickel linebacker. Read the rest of this entry »
|Andre Carter gives Patriots D something to jump about||10.17.11 at 10:15 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots defense has been much maligned all season for its inability to stop opposing offenses from marching up and down the field, and specifically for its inability to get to the opposing quarterback.
Defensive end Andre Carter was brought to New England in the offseason to do just that — get to the quarterback.
Playing a lot of right defensive end on Sunday, Carter kept the pressure on and it finally paid off in two quarterback sacks, with one potentially saving the Patriots four points, the difference in New England’s 20-16 win over the Cowboys.
With the Cowboys looking like they had finally rediscovered their offense on their first possession of the third quarter, Tony Romo had his team first-and-goal at the Patriots 7, with New England clinging to a 13-10 lead.
Following an incompletion, it was second-and-goal and Carter lined up opposite Cowboys right tackle Tyron Smith. Romo dropped back and Carter blew past Smith and made a beeline for Romo. Carter didn’t miss and dumped him for an 11-yard loss. Carter got up and performed his version of the sack dance — the “Quincy Jump,” named for his son.
“Yeah, a high long jump,” Carter said with his trademark bellowing laugh. “I don’t know what it was, it just kind of sprouted up. That’s my son, the ‘Quincy Jump.’ I don’t know how it happened, it just kind of happened, one of those things. Sacks are hard to come by, especially now that the league has changed so much. So the more you can get, the better.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Aaron Hernandez knew time was right to ‘step up’||10.16.11 at 9:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For 58 minutes, the Patriots offense didn’t look like the Patriots offense. Just ask Orlando Scandrick and the Cowboys, who pressured Tom Brady with three sacks, eight hits and two interceptions.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan looked like a genius again against Brady and the Patriots, just like last year, when Ryan’s Browns beat the Patriots, 34-14.
But the Cowboys biggest problem wasn’t Brady in the final five minutes, it was Jason Garrett going all conservative with the play-calling, drawing up three straight runs that yielded a three-and-out, handing the ball to Brady one final time with 2:31 left, and Dallas holding on for dear life at 16-13.
Brady marched the team right down the field, starting and ending the drive with bookend completions to Aaron Hernandez. The first one yielded 16 yards to the Patriots 36.
“When you have a great quarterback like Tom, anything can happen as long as there’s time on the clock,” Hernandez said. “He had enough time to get it done.”
Brady then spread the ball around precisely, finding Rob Gronkowski once, Wes Welker three times and Danny Woodhead twice before coming back to Hernandez on the final play with 22 ticks left on the clock.
“We just [have] a lot of good players out there,” Hernandez said. “We’ve got Wes, Deion [Deion Branch], Chad [Chad Ochocinco], me, and Gronkowski – so many weapons. It’s tough to cover all of us, especially when you have a quarterback who is going to put it in the right spot. We just knew it was time to step up. The type of players we have – everyone knows we have to step up and everyone stepped up.”
Hernandez, who directly contributed to one of New England four turnovers when he fumbled at the Cowboys 21 in the third quarter, would be called upon to step up and atone for that mistake with the game on the line.
Brady dropped back on 2nd-and-4 from the Cowboys 8 and didn’t hesitate in firing a strike to the first open man he saw. That was Hernandez on crossing pattern about seven yards deep in the end zone.
“I had an in-route and Gronkowski had an out-route and he’s a great player so he drew the safety’s attention and I came around and Tom made a great throw and I just had to make the catch,” Hernandez said.
“It was great protection,” Brady added. “Great catch by Aaron. A lot of guys made big plays on that drive. We really needed it. We really kind of squandered away some opportunities throughout the game but came up big when we needed it. The defense was incredible today. That’s a good offense with a lot of damn good football players. They [Patriots defense] really buckled down when they needed to, and offensively, we put together a drive when we needed to.”
|Setting the scene: Patriots-Cowboys||at 12:33 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Mother Nature has provided another ideal fall afternoon at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots to extend one of the more remarkable streaks in recent NFL history.
Partly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s are expected, with breezy conditions as the 4-1 Patriots host the 2-2 Cowboys in New England’s first inter-conference game of 2011. The wind could be a factor as a breeze could turn into heavy wind with gusts up to 30 MPH expected out of the south.
The Patriots head into today’s game having won 17 straight home games against NFC opponents, with their last – and only NFC home loss – coming to Brett Favre and the Packers on Oct. 13, 2002, their very first game against an NFC opponent at Gillette.
Not surprisingly, the Patriots’ 17-1 home mark against NFC foes is the best such mark in the NFL since 2002. Pittsburgh is next at 16-2-1, the Ravens are 16-3 and Indianapolis is 14-4.
As for actives and inactives, the only Patriot ruled out for today is safety Josh Barrett, who is nursing hamstring and thumb ailments. Jerod Mayo returned to the practice field on Friday after missing nearly two weeks with a left knee injury and was listed as questionable for the game, meaning technically there’s a 50-50 chance he plays. With the Patriots bye coming next week, it would be a significant surprise to see Mayo back on the field today against the Cowboys.
Another Patriot player to keep an eye on is BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The running back missed practice on Thursday with toe injury and was limited on Wednesday and Friday. He is questionable for today and, with the Patriots facing a Top-5 NFL run-defense, might get today and the bye week to rest.
The Cowboys come in fairly healthy, with Miles Austin having the bye week last week to heal his strained hamstring. Dez Bryant is also expected to be a key factor today after a week off to rest his thigh.
The cover boy of today’s “GAMEDAY” program is looking to continue his assault on the record books. Wes Welker has 740 yards on 45 catches. The 745 yards are an NFL record through five games. Welker is on a streak of 83 straight regular-season games with at least one catch. Welker has played in 70 career games with the Patriots, including four postseason games. He has caught a pass in each and every one. He missed the Jan. 2010 playoff game against the Ravens when he blew out his ACL in the regular-season finale in Houston.
Watch the Cowboys kicking game today. Their place kicker David Buehler was limited all week in practice with a groin strain and was ruled out on Friday. Taking his place will be Dan Bailey.
Today’s referee is the one-and-only: Walt Coleman. Yes, THAT Walt Coleman. The man who tucked it to the Raiders.
Today also marks the second and last home game in the month of October, national Breast Cancer Awareness month. The Patriots and the American Cancer Society will honor and celebrate 12 breast cancer survivors from all over New England on the field at Gillette. The 12 survivors will take the field with the Patriots cheerleaders as the Patriots players take the field beyond the big helmet. The survivors are there to remind women of the importance of receiving yearly mammograms.
|Wes Welker grew up loving the Cowboys and praying Leon Lett didn’t touch the ball||10.14.11 at 2:17 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Wes Welker grew up in Oklahoma City as a Cowboys fan. He was a pre-teen in the early 90s when Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith were tearing up the NFL.
He was also big Leon Lett fan, as long as he wasn’t trying to carry the ball or pick it up.
Asked Friday during his weekly gab with reporters in front of his locker stall about if he was ever concerned about the “blue jerseys” jinx of the Cowboys, Welker said he never worried about his favorite team coming out in blue but rather defensive linemen trying to advance the ball.
“Not so much. I was more concerned when D-linemen were trying to handle the ball,” Welker joked about the two most infamous plays in Cowboys history, both performed by the 300-pound Pro Bowl defensive lineman.
The first instance came in Jan. 1993, in Super Bowl XXVII, when the Cowboys crushed the Bills, 52-17. Late in the fourth quarter, Lett recovered a fumble on Buffalo’s 45-yard line and ran it back towards the end zone. When he reached the 10, Lett slowed and held the ball out as he neared the goal line. Lett, though, didn’t notice Bills player Don Beebe chasing him down from behind.
Beebe knocked the ball out of Lett’s outstretched hand just before he crossed the goal line, which sent the ball through the endzone, and resulted in a touchback that cost Lett his touchdown. Lett later admitted to watching the Jumbotron, and trying to do a “Michael Irvin”, where he put the ball out across the goal line.
“Well, they still won that game,” Welker said. “That wasn’t too tough but the one where he kicked the ball in the snow, that was a little discouraging at the time.”
On Thanksgiving Day in 1993, Welker’s Cowboys weren’t as lucky.
During a rare snow and sleet storm in Dallas, the 7-3 Cowboys were leading the 8-2 Miami Dolphins, 14-13, with 15 seconds left in the game. The Dolphins tried a 41-yard field goal to take the lead but the kick was blocked. While most of his teammates began celebrating, Lett attempted to recover the ball. He slipped on the ice as he tried to pick up the football, and Miami recovered the Lett blunder on the Dallas one-yard line.
Had Lett simply done nothing, the Cowboys would have automatically received possession and could have run out the clock. By touching the ball and then failing to hold onto it, Lett enabled the Dolphins to take possession and then try another field goal with three seconds left on the clock. The second attempt was good, and the Dolphins won the game, 16–14, as time expired.
Welker and the Cowboys have since recovered.
|Pats want to take the big play out of Big D||at 10:24 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Achilles heel for the Patriots’ defense in the first three weeks of the season was the big play.
In NFL language, that’s any play of over 20 yards.
In wins over the Dolphins and Chargers and the self-destructive loss to the Bills in Orchard Park, the Patriots were burned numerous times by the big play.
As a matter of fact, they allowed 17 plays of more than 20 yards in the first three weeks, en route to allowing more yards than any defense in the league.
But a funny thing happened on the way to 4-1, the Patriots learned to adjust. In wins over the Raiders and Jets, the Patriots allowed just five plays of more than 20 yards. Still, by coaches’ standards not great and certainly not perfect but it’s definitely the right direction.
“I think we’re doing our best to improve every week and make the corrections we need to make week to week,” said Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich. “That’s coming in and watching tape and trying to correct all those mistakes, get better through the week of practice and be prepared for the games come Sunday.
There are several theories behind the improvement. More zone coverage in the secondary to make better use of safeties Patrick Chung, Josh Barrett, Sergio Brown and James Ihedigbo, who were getting burned deep in pass coverage. Another factor was the fact that the Raiders and Jets had quarterbacks in Jason Campbell and Mark Sanchez who were not as intent on getting the ball vertical.
“We’re still winning these games, which is a good thing,” Ninkovich said. “As long as we get the offense the ball, and let them do what they do best, we’re going to be OK.”
The Patriots will have to be on the Ps and Qs this weekend, as well as their Xs and Os. They go up against a quarterback who loves to make the big play in Tony Romo, who happens have to have big playmakers in Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Miles Austin.
Whereas the Patriots were hardly tested last week by Mark Sanchez and his group of dysfunctional, bickering receivers, that is likely not to be the case this weekend. This is the second week without Jerod Mayo and this figures to be a much bigger test, as Michael Lombardi pointed out on Dennis & Callahan on Friday.
“Not having a guy like Mayo on the field is obviously going to hurt your defense but I think that we did a good job of everyone stepping up, and knowing that without him out there, everybody has to step up. I think we did well as a defense.”
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