|Patriots offensive line sees sack-free streak come to an end against Packers||12.02.14 at 9:00 am ET|
For a Patriots’ offensive line that was riding a sack-free streak, Sunday afternoon against the Packers represented a bit of a letdown.
The New England offensive entered its contest against Green Bay with an impressive string of sack-free football: Quarterback Tom Brady had not been brought down for two-plus games, a streak of 165 minutes and 35 seconds of game action that dated all the way back to the first half of the Nov. 2 win over the Broncos in Foxboro. (Brady was not sacked in the wins over Indy or Detroit.)
But the Packers got to Brady down in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game when, on a third and 9, the quarterback was sandwiched by Green Bay’s Mike Neal and Mike Daniels. It was a sizable turning point in the contest, as the lost yardage not only forced a field-goal attempt by the Patriots, it also was enough to push kicker Stephen Gostkowski just out of range, as he missed a 47-yarder. With a five-point lead, the Packers got the ball back and didn’t relinquish it.
“It’s our job to make sure [Brady] stays upright,” said guard Dan Connolly on a conference call with the New England media Monday afternoon. “Especially being the last [offensive] play of the game, that’s not how we wanted to end our game. Obviously, we’ve got some work to do and we’re going to try to move forward and make sure he’s upright as much as we can.”
Brady is on pace to have one of the lowest sack totals for his career — the quarterback has been sacked 15 times through 12 games. (By way of comparison, he was sacked a whopping 32 times through 12 games last season.) If that rate holds over the final four games of the season, that would leave him with 20 sacks on the year, the second-lowest total of his career. (He was sacked 16 times in 2009.)
Connolly and the rest of the New England offensive line will get a chance to start another positive streak Sunday night in San Diego. While they do have some interesting pass-rushing possibilities with the likes of Cory Liuget (3.5 sacks) and Dwight Freeney (2 sacks), the Chargers are still just 29th in the league in sacks with 18.
“I know this is a good defense, and they’ve had a lot of success so far this year,” Connolly said when asked about the Chargers. “They’ve got good guys on their front, good pass rushers: Dwight Freeney and guys like that, so it’s going to be really important for us this week to really focus who we’re playing against and just get to know those players. We haven’t played them in a while, so we have to get familiar with that team again and get to know the players we’ll be facing.”
The upcoming week will be anything but ordinary for the Patriots as they traveled directly to San Diego from Green Bay following Sunday’s game and will hold a week of practice in warm, sunny California — over 2,500 miles away from their Gillette Stadium home — as they get ready for Sunday’s matchup with the Chargers.
But, according to the Patriots it is just another week, only in a different location.
“I don’t think there’s going to be very much different,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said on a conference call Monday. “We’re going to put the same effort and time and preparation into that we normally would. The coaches are going to be doing everything that they normally do. The only thing that’s different is the location that we’re doing it in. Other than that, there’s no difference. We’re all professionals. We understand what we have to do and we’re going to do it.”
The Patriots will be spending 10 days on the road as they left for Green Bay last Saturday, and won’t return to New England until early Monday morning following Sunday’s night game. With the team spending almost every waking minute together, it has a training camp like feel.
“There’s definitely a feeling of training camp where we’re all together,” offensive lineman Dan Connolly said. “But it’s important for us to not be distracted by nice weather and things that are going on out here and realize that we have a job to do this week and we have to treat it as much like a regular week as we can and still prepare for the game that we have on Sunday.”
|Protection Pattern: Tom Brady relishing more time to throw||11.19.14 at 1:44 pm ET|
In the first half, Brady went a pedestrian 10-for-19 passing for 84 yards with two interceptions, including one with less than two minutes remaining — arguably one of the worst throws he’s made in his 15 seasons, as the throw hung in the air for a lifetime before Colts safety Mike Adams picked it off.
The Colts scored a touchdown a few plays later and the Patriots got the ball back with 55 seconds remaining, but Bill Belichick didn’t mess around and kneeled out the clock sending the Patriots to the locker room with just a 14-10 lead — perhaps sending a message to Brady and the offense.
“I always need to do a better job,” said Brady. “Obviously we were there at halftime, I didn’t play as well as I am capable of. I have to do a lot better job. It always starts with me and that is where my focus is. Hopefully I can put together four quarters of good stuff this week.”
The second half was a completely different story as the offense scored touchdowns on four of its five possessions and the only one they didn’t score was the last possession of the game when they were running out the clock late in the fourth quarter. While the ground game was exceptional (Jonas Gray’s 201 yards rushing, four touchdowns), but Brady was a major reason as well. He was 9-for-11 passing for 173 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. (One of the incompletions was a Julian Edelman drop over the middle.)
So, what changed in the second half? Brady had more time to throw.
The quarterback looked much more comfortable in the pocket in the second half, as he was given more time to throw. By our calculations, in the second half Brady averaged 2.61 seconds from snap to release, compared to 2.20 second in the first half — almost half a second difference.
|Offensive line’s ‘trust’ leading the way in Patriots’ 4-game win streak||10.29.14 at 1:34 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After Week 4’s blowout loss to Kansas City, the Patriots offense ranked 24th in the NFL averaging 20 points a game. After Week 8’s blowout win over the Bears, the Patriots offense now ranks third in the NFL averaging 29.8 points per game.
One of the biggest reasons why is the familiarity the offensive line now has with one another.
“Those guys have really dealt with a lot of change,” quarterback Tom Brady said before practice on Wednesday refercing to the unit getting a new coach in Dave DeGuglielmo after Dante Scarnecchia retired after 32 years in the NFL following last season.
“This year, it started back in the offseason, and [they] have really worked through that through training camp. And then different players have kind of come and gone and been injured from the start of the season, before the start of the season — with Logan [Mankins] and then being able to really adjust to that.”
Even though the Patriots have used three different starting offensive lines during the four-game win streak due to concussions for Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly, they have continued to rotate players in and out even within games, so everyone is ready to step in at any time and be on the same page as players who have been starting every week.
“I think those guys are really taking it as a challenge of the mental toughness,” Brady added. “At this point, [they’ve] really settled into kind of the group that they are and the group they want to be. They’re playing with a lot of toughness. They’re playing with a lot of commitment to what their coach is asking them to do. We’ve had some growing pains that we’re all trying to get used to earlier in the year, but I think we’re playing at a much better level.”
Although sacks are sometimes overrated when measuring the success or failure of an offensive line, Brady was sacked nine times in the first four games of the season, compared to only three the last four games. Sunday marked the first time Brady was not sacked in a game since Week 4 last year against the Falcons.
Brady has also been getting more time in the pocket to throw, which has allowed for the playbook to be opened up and not having to worry about Brady getting the ball out quickly to avoid pressure.
|Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork back at practice for Patriots, Darrelle Revis among those not spotted||10.21.14 at 12:42 pm ET|
Offensive linemen Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming were all present at the start of practice for the Patriots on Tuesday, while cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive end Chandler Jones were not among those spotted at the workout, which was held in sweats and shells, according to reports.
Connolly and Stork have been dealing with head injuries the last couple of weeks, while Fleming has been on the shelf because of a finger problem. Special teamer Nate Ebner, who has also been missing with a finger injury for the last couple of weeks, was also spotted at practice.
On the other side, while Revis has had occasional hamstring issues over the course of the season, nothing has kept him from playing. It’s not known what Jones might be dealing with.
The Patriots will host the Bears Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
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|Patriots promote RB Jonas Gray, OL Chris Barker, place Stevan Ridley, Jerod Mayo on IR||10.16.14 at 4:32 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In a move that was expected, practice squad running back Jonas Gray has been promoted to fill the spot on injured running back Stevan Ridley for tonight’s game against the Jets.
Gray impressed the Patriots in training camp and the preseason with his tough physical running style. The second-year back out of Notre Dame played in all four preseason games this year, totaling 37 carries for 142 yards and a 3.8 yard per carry average.
The other injured Patriot from Sunday who is lost for the season, Jerod Mayo, will be replaced by offensive lineman Chris Barker. This move was made with the uncertainty with regard to center Bryan Stork and left guard Dan Connolly. Stork missed the last game in Buffalo with a head injury after leaving in the first half against the Bengals on Oct. 5. Connolly left in the first half last Sunday against the Bills, also with a head injury.
Both Ridley and Mayo were placed on season-ending injured reserve before the 4 p.m. deadline to have Gray and Barker activated. The moves were first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
‘ Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 16, 2014
‘ Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 16, 2014
|Tom Brady not spotted at start of Patriots practice||10.14.14 at 1:42 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After being questionable for last Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, Tom Brady was missing from the start of Patriots practice Tuesday afternoon on the game field at Gillette Stadium prior to the Patriots’ Thursday night matchup with the Jets. The practice appeared to be a walkthrough.
Also missing from the start of practice were: Stevan Ridley, Jerod Mayo, Nate Ebner, Dan Connolly, Cameron Fleming and Bryan Stork. It should be noted the media was only present for the first few minutes of practice, so we’ll have to wait for the practice report later this afternoon to know for sure if those players ever made it out there.
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