|Patriots offensive line performs well, protects Tom Brady in win over Bengals||10.06.14 at 11:37 am ET|
FOXBORO — A lot of the focus on the Patriots offense‘s struggles this season has been centered around the play of the offensive line and their inability to protect quarterback Tom Brady, as going into Sunday he was sacked 10 times.
In the 43-17 win over the Bengals they answered their critics and played their best game of the season, leading the way for the Patriots running backs who ran for 220 yards and also protected Brady, as he was sacked just once against a Bengals defense that came into the game totaling seven sacks in three games.
After starting his first career game last week against Kansas City, rookie Cameron Fleming missed Sunday’s game with a finger injury, so once again the Patriots needed to find a different combination up front.
Here is how the offensive line combinations broke down (from left-to-right, doesn’t include kneel down at the end):
Drive 1: Nate Solder-Dan Connolly-Bryan Stork-Ryan Wendell-Sebastian Vollmer (Touchdown)
Drive 2: Solder-Connolly-Stork-Wendell-Vollmer (Touchdown)
Drive 3: Solder-Connolly-Stork-Wendell-Vollmer (Punt)
Drive 4: Solder-Connolly-Stork-Wendell-Vollmer (Punt)
Drive 5: Solder-Connolly-Stork-Wendell-Marcus Cannon (Field goal)
Drive 6: Solder-Connolly-Stork-Wendell-Vollmer (Field goal)
Drive 7: Solder-Connolly-Stork-Wendell-Vollmer (Punt)
Drive 8: Solder-Connolly-Stork-Wendell-Vollmer (Touchdown)
Drive 9: Solder-Connolly-Stork-Wendell-Vollmer (Field goal)
Drive 10: Cannon-Connolly-Stork-Wendell-Vollmer (Field goal)
Drive 11: Solder-Connolly-Stork-Wendell-Vollmer (Field goal)
|Patriots offensive line continues to make changes, struggling to find right combination||09.30.14 at 12:29 am ET|
The Patriots made a few changes to the struggling offensive line prior to Monday’s game against the Chiefs by starting two rookies — Bryan Stork at center and Cameron Fleming at right guard (his first time ever playing the position), as well as moving Dan Connolly to left guard.
In addition, the team deactivated Jordan Devey, who had started the first three games of the season. Even with the changes, it did not stick as the team continued to rotate players in and out almost every series throughout the game trying to find a combination that works.
Here is our breakdown of the line (left tackle to right tackle) for each of their 11 drives:
- Drive 1: Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming, Sebastian Vollmer (Punt)
- Drive 2: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)
- Drive 3: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)
- Drive 4: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Marcus Cannon (Punt)
- Drive 5: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)
- Drive 6: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Fumble)
- Drive 7: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Interception)
- Drive 8: Cannon, Connolly, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Touchdown)
- Drive 9: Solder, Connolly, Stork, Ryan Wendell, Vollmer (Interception)
- Drive 10: Solder: Wendell, Stork, Fleming, Cannon (Touchdown)
- Drive 11: Cannon, Wendell, Stork, Fleming, Vollmer (Punt)
|Cameron Fleming draws praise from Bill Belichick after missing offseason workouts||09.25.14 at 1:17 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Rookie offensive linemen Cameron Fleming got a late start to the Patriots’ offseason program because he was finishing up classes at Stanford. But, the 22-year-old aeronautics and astronautics double-major hasn’t let that affect him as he’s played in all three games this season — although not in his natural position of tackle.
With tight end Rob Gronkowski working his way back to full strength, Fleming has been used as an extra tight end — playing 44 snaps over the three games, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Definitely a learning experience, I had to catch up a little bit,” Fleming said. “I’ve learned a lot. It’s easy just to focus on just football now because that’s all I have so it makes it a little easier to dig in and work.”
Coach Bill Belichick was impressed with how prepared Fleming came to the team after missing most of the offseason workouts and now his work paying dividends.
“I think Cam [Fleming] has done a real good job for us,” Belichick said last week. “One of the challenges for him and for us was him not really being here for much of the spring. Just being late in spring because of his commitments to school. We really didn’t have a great feel for him until training camp started.
“And he came here in really good condition. He ran well. He dropped some weight, he leaned up. He worked really hard between the beginning of June and the end of July. He was definitely ready to go, had a good camp, performed very well. And caught up to all the things we were doing in a short amount of time. The more time we spent around him, the more impressed we were.”
Fleming has never played tight end at any point of his career, but said it isn’t much different as he is still blocking, just from a position further out. The fourth-round pick noted the veteran members of the offensive line have helped him out considerably so far this season.
“They are like an encyclopedia of knowledge,” he said. “Anything I need to know — like how to take a set — they are right there to help me out, give me advice and tell me how they did it.”
|Chandler Jones: Patriots defense ‘takes pride’ in forcing turnovers||09.24.14 at 6:11 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Having the best turnover differential in the NFL is something the Patriots have a lot of satisfaction in.
The Patriots defense has forced eight total turnovers in the first three games – six interceptions and two fumbles — and along with two giveaways by the offense, New England is tied for the league-lead in turnover differential at plus six with the Bengals.
“For the defense to get a turnover that can be huge for the offense and it’s something that we take pride in. Get the ball to the offense,” defensive end Chandler Jones said.
The defense’s eight forced turnovers are tied with the Bears for the most in the NFL.
“That is a credit to the defense working together and also credits the coaches and their game plans and play calling,” Jones said. “Coach [Matt] Patricia and Coach [Bill] Belichick do a good job of calling blitzes and when to drop into coverage — things of that nature to confuse the offense a little bit or even the quarterback.”
While Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has thrown three interceptions so far this season, he’s known as being a game-manager and not turning the ball over much – not throwing more than seven interceptions in each of the last three seasons.
Smith is in his 10th season in the league, spending his first seven with San Fransisco, so the Patriots know they will have their work cut out for them Monday Night on the road.
|Tedy Bruschi on D&H: ‘Roger Goodell’s integrity has been compromised’||09.22.14 at 3:57 pm ET|
Making his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show, ESPN analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi reiterated his stance that Roger Goodell should be replaced as commissioner of the National Football League. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
“It was just all about me saying what I believed in, what I felt,” Bruschi said regarding his statement on ESPN shortly after Goodell’s Friday press conference, suggesting it was time for a change in the NFL’s commissioner’s office. “Just that I’m proud of the time I spent in the National Football League. I tried to conduct myself during my 13-year career to do the right thing. I still feel part of it, a part of the integrity of the game to how I still conduct myself. My commissioner I want to be that man you can look to and he represents the integrity of our game. He’s got to be the figurehead. He’s got to lead in his image. He’s everything. He represents the players. He represents the owners. And, yes, I do feel he represents the players because he is the face with the shield. Roger Goodell’s integrity has been compromised. Now, has that been proven? There are still investigations. There’s an internal investigation with the NFL. All I’m saying, moving forward I just feel, personally, we need a new face.
“We need a new leader to implement new policies and to have a new image. Because going forward when you look to the NFL and you see the head of the NFL, and it is Roger Goodell, no matter what happens with the investigation, you remember and you wonder. You wonder what he’s saying. Is he telling the truth? Is everyone behind him? And right now there isn’t. Everyone is not behind him and I would like new leadership to lead the league forward.”
Bruschi also touched on his concerns in regards to his former team.
He noted that perhaps the biggest issue facing the Patriots is their play at the center and guards positions on the offensive line. If improvement is made on the line’s interior, Bruschi said, there could be a concern in regards to quarterback Tom Brady‘s ability to stay healthy for an entire season.
“There’s been only limited improvement over the first few weeks, so that’s somewhat discouraging,” he said. “Is there still plenty of time? Yes. But I really worry. I really worry about the health of Tom Brady and the interior offensive line and what they’re doing there. To me, inside-out, it starts at the center position, which is a very valuable position now in the National Football League. It’s getting to be just as valuable as the left tackle, how you have to solidify the center of that pocket and the running game because that’s where all the pressure is going to come from. Especially when you have a pocket passer, which is what Tom is. It’s the quickest track to get to him and it disrupts the running game the most, if you get to get disruption over the center and the left guard and the right guard. Right now, they’re having problems in there.
Bruschi added, “You can have the best coach there is, Dante Scarnecchia can still be there, and you still may have a center and a right guard that struggles because the players on the other side of the ball are just better. I think offensively what they’ll try to do is mask their deficiencies there. How do you have it more that the interior offensive line to have the advantage in terms of protecting your quarterback? You run the ball more. You try and be more physical. You use misdirection. You do play-action pass. Those type of things you have to win on first and second down and keep it manageable on third down because if it ends up second and long or third and long, I as a defensive pass rusher or linebacker we can attack those A-gaps, that’s where it’s going to come. If you have the problems there, coupled with your tackles getting beat like a drum, like they were at times on Sunday, you have some major problems going forward.”
|Tom Brady on Patriots offense: ‘I don’t think anything is perfect out there’||09.21.14 at 7:41 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Finishing with 16 points and only one touchdown against a Raiders defense who allowed a combined 49 points in their first two games of the season, Tom Brady and the offense had a reason to be frustrated with their performance. But, even with its offensive struggles, the Patriots were able to sneak away with a 16-9 win over the Raiders in its home opener Sunday afternoon.
“We had some opportunities there to score more points and we didn’t come away with it,” Brady said. “We left some chances on the field and certainly scoring opportunities. That’s something we’re going to have to obviously get a lot better at, so we’ll keep working at it.”
The major issue for the Patriots was its red zone efficiency as they ran six plays inside the Oakland’s 3-yard line and scored zero touchdowns on those plays. Their lone touchdown of the game was a 6-yard pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter.
New England couldn’t find the end zone at the end of the first half when Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen were stopped on consecutive running plays and then on third down the shotgun snap was botched. Then, opening the fourth quarter, Vereen was stopped and Brady threw back-to-back incompletions, intended for Gronkowski and Danny Amendola. Stephen Gostkowski kicked field goals on both occasions and finished with three total in the game.
“We’re going to try to keep making improvements,” Brady said. “I don’t think anything is perfect out there. There are some teams that are playing really well already. We’re not really doing that offensively yet. Defensively we played great but it’s a team sport. We’ve got to handle our business and do our job, whether it’s situationally, whether it’s scoring when we need to score. Not turning the ball over has been good — I think we’ve done a good job of that. We’ve just got to score more points. Especially getting down to the red area and having opportunities to score and not being able to do it.”
FOXBORO — With Oakland having first and goal, trailing by seven points with less than a minute to play in the Patriots’ home opener, the defense needed to come up with a big play.
It got that play, but coming from one of the most unlikely of players in that situation — defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.
Oakland quarterback Derek Carr’s pass intended for Denarius Moore was deflected by cornerback Logan Ryan back towards the line of scrimmage and Wilfork was there to snag the ball for his third career interception, sealing the Patriots 16-9 victory in its home opener.
“I think it was a team play,” said Wilfork. “Like I said, knowing the situation we were in, it was a three-man rush and the main thing I didn’t want to do was get tied up at the line of scrimmage because they had more guys to block. We only had three and they have five and sometimes they keep an extra guy in for them to make sure they have protection, so I just wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t get tied up and just read the quarterback. If everybody is going their job, which they were, he’d have to either scramble with the ball or come to a check down. And once he came to the check down, I was lucky to have some defenders already there that batted the ball around a little bit and I just happened to catch it.
“The credit doesn’t go all to me — the credit goes to the defense. Because without the coverage in the end zone, without the man-to-man coverage we were in, without the bobbled ball, without the two other guys on the line of scrimmage rushing with me, that play probably wouldn’t have happened, so that’s a great defensive play.”
Wilfork is now the Patriots franchise leader in interceptions by a defensive linemen with three — passing Anthony Pleasant, Richard Seymour and Henry Thomas — who all have two. His last interception also came against the Raiders, back in 2011 in Oakland — a 31-19 Patriots victory.
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