|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:
|Patriots still have best odds to win Super Bowl, while Tom Brady again has best odds to capture MVP||11.23.16 at 1:45 pm ET|
The Patriots are still have the best odds when it comes to winning Super Bowl LI, according to Bovada.
New England’s odds stayed at 9/4 over the last wee, putting them ahead of the Cowboys (9/2), Seahawks (11/2) and Raiders (12/1). At the other end of the spectrum, the Rams are Jets are both 500/1. (The Bears, Browns, Jaguars and Niners are all off the board.)
Tom Brady was also able to re-establish himself as the MVP favorite. After spending a week behind Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Patriots’ quarterback returned to the top of the heap. He has 11/4 odds to win the MVP, ahead of Russell Wilson (4/1), Elliott (9/2), Derek Carr (7/1) and Matt Ryan (7/1).
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|As stretch drive looms, who holds lead in race for NFL MVP?||11.21.16 at 11:54 am ET|
In a wide-open chase for this year’s MVP, a handful of candidates have distinguished themselves at the start of the stretch drive. In no particular order, here’s our current top 10.
Quarterback Tom Brady: The quarterback has fallen off the red-hot pace he established through his first few games back after his Deflategate ban, but through his first six games, Brady is still posting comparable numbers to his remarkable 2007 campaign.
Brady, first 6 games, ’16: 145-206 (70%), 1,915 yds, 16 TDs, 1 INT
Brady, first 6 names, ’07: 148-204 (72%), 1,771 yds, 21 TDs, 2 INTs
— Christopher Price (@cpriceNFL) November 21, 2016
Bottom line? His team currently holds the top spot in the AFC and he’s putting up big numbers. In what is shaping up to be a season where there’s no consensus candidate, he remains a strong possibility to take home his third MVP award.
Quarterback Matt Ryan: The Boston College product has had the best season of his career to this point; with Brady missing the first four games of the year, Ryan is at or near the top of most major passing categories. (If he’s in second, more often than not, the only guy he’s trailing is Drew Brees. And HE isn’t getting any MVP votes this year.) Ryan is 236-for-346 (68 percent) with 3,247 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 115.1 for the 6-4 Falcons. Good numbers that should continue to have him in the hunt as the playoffs loom.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott: With Brady and Ryan, one of three serious candidates at this point on the calendar. The rookie out of Ohio State is having one of the best seasons of any young running back in recent history with 1,102 yards on 223 carries for nine touchdowns in 10 games. The 6-foot, 225-pounder us on pace to finish with a whopping 1,763 rushing yards. If he does that and the Cowboys finish 15-1 or 14-2, it would be hard for many national voters look past him.
Quarterback Dak Prescott: The Elliott-Prescott combination has really clicked for Dallas this year, and the quarterback has done more than his share in getting the Cowboys to 9-1. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder has gone 214-for-316 (68 percent), with 2,640 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, just two picks and a passer rating of 108.6. But could Prescott and Elliott end up splitting votes?
Quarterback Russell Wilson: From this perspective, Wilson has a fantastic opportunity to make a closing statement over the final month-plus of the season. The signal-caller, who finally appears to be over the health issues that dogged him for much of the first half of the season, has the Seahawks back on track and playing fantastic football. The numbers aren’t overwhelming when stacked against some of his contemporaries: on the year, he is 221-for-335 (66 percent), with 2,714 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 99.3 passer rating. But if he stays healthy, Seattle continues to play well down the stretch and ends up with 12 or more wins, Wilson is going to get lots of votes.
|Snap Judgments: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski bruised, Patriots beaten by Seahawks||11.13.16 at 11:45 pm ET|
FOXBORO — This time, the Seahawks were the ones to outlast the Patriots and hold them off at the goal line.
In another great battle between the two of the most battled-tested teams in the NFL, it was the Seahawks who capitalized on Patriots mistakes and made the league’s second-best scoring defense look woeful on home turf in a 31-24 win Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
After getting called for 12-men on the field, the Seahawks stopped the Patriots on fourth-and-goal at the 1 to hold on for a dramatic win. Tom Brady’s pass for Rob Gronkowski fell incomplete when Gronkowski pushed off on Kam Chancellor in the end zone and both men fell to the ground as the pass fell incomplete.
The Patriots famously held off the Seahawks at the goal line when Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX.
Every game with the Seahawks is a physical battle, as Bill Belichick noted earlier in the week. Sunday night certainly lived up to the coach’s anticipation.
In the second quarter, Rob Gronkowski was drilled by Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas as the Patriots tight end was running free at the Seattle 15. Gronkowski missed several plays due to concussion protocol before coming back in just in time for Blount’s second touchdown.
In the third quarter, Tom Brady took a nasty hit to his right knee when Kam Chancellor came free on a blitz and blew by Marcus Cannon. Brady winced in pain and flexed his knee but did not miss any snaps.
In the first game without Jamie Collins, the Patriots looked badly out of sorts at times, especially when they tried to defend the short and intermediate passing game.
That was most evident right before half. The Patriots took a 14-12 lead on LeGarrette Blount’s remarkable touchdown run, carrying several tacklers 10 yards along the goal line before reaching over for his second score of the night. The Patriots had the momentum. But the Seahawks had 74 seconds and three timeouts. Wilson completed passes of 14, 24, 12 and 18 yards, with the final pass connected to a wide open Doug Baldwin in the end zone. Baldwin broke free behind Patrick Chung.
The drive mirrored the drive before halftime at Super Bowl XLIX, when Russell Wilson threw a touchdown pass with two seconds left in the first half to tie the game, 14-14. This time, the TD gave Seattle a 19-14 lead at the break.
There were other breakdowns.
Justin Coleman, filling in for the scratched Eric Rowe, was beaten twice in the first half that led directly to scores. In the first quarter, on Seattle’s first drive, he was beaten Tyler Lockett for 36 yards that led to a 27-yard Steven Hauschka field goal. On the next drive, Coleman was called for pass interference for grabbing the jersey of Lockett on third-and-4 at the Seattle 27. That extended the drive, which culminated in another field goal. Coleman was also flagged for a clipping call that wiped out a 21-yard punt return by Cyrus Jones in the third quarter. That put the Patriots back to their 9 instead of starting at the 35.
After their first touchdown, Stephen Gostkowski kicked the ball out of bounds for the first time this season. That gave Seattle the ball at their 40.
Tom Brady was intercepted for the first time this season and held without a TD pass.
The Patriots defense got a much-needed 3-and-out to open the second half, as Dont’a Hightower nearly picked off a pass on third down. The Patriots got their biggest scare of the night on their first drive of the second half.
With the Patriots facing third-and-2 at their 17, Kam Chancellor came on a safety blitz off the right corner. He blew by Marcus Cannon and appeared to lose his balance. He dove at Brady’s right knee as he was falling down and Brady immediately winced in pain. Brady stayed in the game and directed the Patriots down the field, completing a 91-yard, 10-play drive when Blount raced to the far left of the line, running all the way to the sideline before cutting up toward the left side and tip-toeing into the end zone for his third rushing score of the night.
|Scouting Report: What you have to know about Seahawks-Patriots||11.12.16 at 6:24 pm ET|
Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and Patriots at Gillette Stadium
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL
If there’s a vulnerability in the Seattle defense at this stage of the season, it’s against the run. Seattle has struggled a bit over the last few games when it comes to stopping the run, as four of Seattle’s last six opponents have topped 100 yards on the ground. That includes Buffalo, which rushed for 162 yards against the Seahawks on Monday night, the most yards on the ground Seattle has allowed all year. (It’s not the only reason, but it’s not a complete coincidence that since defensive end Michael Bennett has been sidelined with a knee issue, the Seahawks have allowed an average of 142.5 rushing yards per game. Bennett won’t play Sunday.) Overall, Seattle is 12th in the league against the run, having allowed an average of 96.8 rushing yards per game.
Meanwhile, the New England running game is in robust shape. LeGarrette Blount is well on his way to a career-year with 161 carries, 609 yards and nine touchdowns, and will get the bulk of the carries Sunday night as he goes for his fourth 100-plus yard game of the season. (That would tie the total number of 100-plus yard games he posted as a rookie, the best output of his career.) The only question here? Is Dion Lewis healthy enough to make his season debut, or are the Patriots going to stick with James White (26 carries, 107 yards, 29 catches, 258 yards, 3 TDs) for at least another week in the role of third-down back. On Saturday, Lewis was added to the 53-man roster, but it remains to be seen if he’ll have an impact against the Seahawks.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL
Tom Brady (98-for-134, 1,319 yards, 12 TDs, 0 INTs, passer rating of 133.9) will be faced with one of his biggest challenges of the year in the Seattle pass defense. There’s no Bennett, but the Seahawks still have a ferocious front with Cliff Avril (nine sacks) and Frank Clark (6.5 sacks) that could snap Brady in half, both literally and metaphorically. Bottom line for the quarterback? Get the make-you-miss guys in space with short and intermediate lasers designed to move the chains and pick up five to eight yards at a time. While some of the names and faces are different, the overriding philosophy of the New England passing game coming into Sunday night is a lot like the one the Patriots had in Super Bowl XLIX: quick passes, designed to take advantage of the likes of Julian Edelman (41 catches, 62 targets, 358 yards, 1 TD), Danny Amendola (16 catches, 20 targets, 189 yards, 3 TDs), Rob Gronkowski (22 catches, 30 targets, 484 yards, 3 TDs), Martellus Bennett (31 catches, 40 targets, 402 yards, 4 TDs) and (maybe) Dion Lewis.
The Seahawks play more zone, so they’ll mix it up a bit when it comes to coverage. In all, Seattle is 10th against the pass (233.9). On paper, it looks like the Seattle linebackers may have the capability to slow Gronkowski or Bennett, which means they may have to play pick your poison. That could also means a heavier dose of targets for Edelman (provided he’s near 100 percent) and Amendola than we’ve seen over the last few weeks. The two ripped it up in Super Bowl XLIX with a combined 14 catches, and could be called upon to pick up those quick passes and some yards after the catch as well on Sunday. The Lewis/White combo should also see plenty of opportunities as well. Bottom line? This matchup probably is a toss up. But if you can’t get excited at the prospect of a Brady vs. Richard Sherman matchup, you need to check your pulse.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS RUN THE BALL
The truth is Seattle is the least effective running team the Patriots will face all year. Part of that is because of an inconsistent offensive line, but the truth is that the post-Beast Mode era is not off to a good start in Seattle. (They’re on pace for the fewest yards rushing in franchise history in a 16-game season.) The Seahawks are 30th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 75.4 rushing yards per game. They’re also 30th in average 3.2 yards per attempt and total yards, 603. The two times they’ve topped 100 yards on the ground, it’s been against two of the worst run defenses in the league in Miami and San Francisco. Christine Michael (112 carries, 447 yards, 6 TDs) has gotten the bulk of the reps to this point in the season, but Seattle could be seeking a spark from C.J. Prosise (9 carries, 30 yards); Pete Carroll flipped the script in the fourth quarter of last Monday’s win over Buffalo, going with the rookie instead of Michael, and said this week that Prosise will play “a lot” against the Patriots. So who knows? Either way, don’t expect much from the ground game. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots run defense has been up-and-down as of late, with more down than up. (The last three games, New England has yielded at least 90 yards on the ground.) Overall, the Patriots are 15th in the league against the run, having allowed an average of 101.6 rushing yards per game. Given Seattle’s struggles on the ground, it would be shocking if New England was still allowing an average of more than 100 rushing yards per game after Sunday night.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS PASS THE BALL
This is where Seattle will make its stand, with a revitalized Russell Wilson back to making plays and getting the ball out to the likes of Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin. After a really rough start because of a woeful offensive line and a myriad of injury issues, it looks like Wilson is pointed in the right direction. He had his best game of the year last week against the Bills, going 20-for-26 for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, he’s completed 67 percent of his passes (178-for-267) for 2,094 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Baldwin is the No. 1 target in the passing game (44 catches, 57 targets, 570 yards, two touchdowns), while Graham flashed some excellent one-handed catches while putting up good numbers of his own (38 catches, 54 targets, 545 yards, three touchdowns).
On the other side, the Patriots will do some mixing and matching in hopes of slowing both Baldwin and Graham with Malcolm Butler and Patrick Chung getting a lot of work in man situations. But there are still some questions: while we know Malcolm Butler is the lead corner, who is No. 2? Logan Ryan? Eric Rowe? Justin Coleman? Can Cyrus Jones ever get back on the field? And without Jamie Collins in the mix anymore, does Barkevious Mingo have what it takes to be the new coverage linebacker? The depth of the Seattle passing game isn’t as good as some of the others around the league, but Wilson’s savvy and chemistry with both Baldwin and Graham will provide a good test for a pass defense that is currently 18th in the league, having allowed an average of 253 passing yards per game.
|5 things you have to know about Seahawks: Line issues, injury have left Seattle offense a one-dimensional group||11.08.16 at 2:47 pm ET|
Five things you have to know about the Seahawks, who will travel to Foxboro this week for a Sunday night date with the Patriots.
1. Their offensive line is struggling.
The Seattle offensive line has really had issues this season. Russell Wilson has been able to avoid a lot of punishments because he’s a mobile and smart signal-caller — despite some injuries, he’s been able to avoid rushers and has been smart enough to throw the ball away when he’s faced serious pressure. But it’s still a thing. Whether you blame poor coaching, lack of execution, personnel or the simple fact that the team cheaped out when it came to securing the necessary protection, it’s an issue. (Seattle can’t blame a lack of continuity — the Seahawks have run pretty much the same positional grouping out there throughout most of the first half of the season.) But on Monday against the Bills, Seattle trotted out a left tackle in George Fant whose last start previous to this season came at the Pee-Wee level. Specific to this week, the New England defense has not done a good job getting consistent pressure on opposing passers, but the Patriots could exploit Seattle’s vulnerability this weekend. It might not result in sacks because of Wilson’s escapability, but it could have a sizable impact when it comes to pressure.
2. As a result, many aspects of their offense are having issues.
Some of it is tied to the struggling offensive line, some of it is tied to the health of Wilson (more on that in a second) and some is connected to trying to adjust to life after Marshawn Lynch. But the Seattle offense has struggled to craft an identity through the first eight games of the season. There have been times where the Seahawks have looked really impressive, but there have also been times where they have struggled to gain any sort of offensive traction. However, it’s about that time of the year where Seattle starts to break out, however. This stat from Danny Kelly is interesting: Last year, the Seahawks averaged 20.9 points in the first half of the regular season to 32 points in the second half. It was more of the same in 2012, when Seattle went from 17.5 points through the first eight games to 34 over the final eight. The Seahawks have never been about colossal offensive numbers. But the bottom line is that Seattle is averaging 20.3 points per game through the first half of the season, 23rd in the league. That needs to improve. Was Monday’s 31-point outburst against the Bills the start of another second-half surge for the Seattle offense? We shall see.
|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.
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