|Key moment: Patriots drive towards a division title||12.02.12 at 4:24 pm ET|
The Dolphins had just cut the Patriots lead to 20-13 after a 33-yard Dan Carpenter field goal with 8:50 left in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots offense had been spotty in the second half after putting up 17 points in the first half, including a three-and-out to start the second half.
But the Patriots were dominant when they needed to be, orchestrating a 16-play, 77-yard drive and most importantly, consuming 7:18 of game clock and exhausting Miami’s final two timeouts.
The Patriots called 12 runs on the drive, including Tom Brady‘s fall to the ground on the final snap before Stephen Gostkowski‘s 21-yard field goal that gave New England a 23-13 lead.
Stevan Ridley was huge, carrying the ball 10 times for 46 yards on the drive.
|Scott O’Brien: Patriots’ success on special teams is a group effort||11.27.12 at 4:05 pm ET|
In a conference call with the media on Tuesday, Patriots special teams coach Scott O’Brien congratulated the work of his group, which has come up with some big plays over the last three weeks. Included in that is a punt return for a touchdown by Julian Edelman against the Colts, as well as a forced fumble by Devin McCourty which was returned for a touchdown by Edelman against the Jets.
“I think anytime you can contribute with big plays or put points on the board for your team it’s a credit to the players on the field, what our goals are every week that we try to accomplish,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “And to see them fulfill it is obviously gratifying to me. It’s good to see them have success because they’ve worked so hard all year.”
O’Brien said that like every good return, Edelman’s runback against the Colts was a team effort.
“Like every week, it starts outside with the gunners we’re playing and matched up against,” O’Brien said. “Anytime you can get your punt returner started, it really starts with the guys matched up on those guys. Then the rest of the players doing their job on their assignment and creating a finish for Julian as he works up the field and Julian doing a good job to get started.
“We always have a responsibility for the returner to get matched up on, and it’s always their responsibility to make that guy miss or the first player miss to get started. But it really helps when our outside players that play against the gunner as well as the player that matches up against their personal protector that tries to cover, do their job, just to get him started so he can work the field then the rest of the players can finish for him and obviously create an explosive play or in Julian’s case, the effort lies in beating guys at the end, either the punter or whatever on his own to create a score for himself.”
O’Brien also lauded the work of punter Zoltan Mesko and kicker Stephen Gostkowski. When it comes to Mesko, O’Brien acknowledged that the punter has a relatively low average, but that’s only a small part of the picture.
“There’s a lot of stats within stats — you know, where you punt from, what area of the field and when you’re around midfield and you’re trying to back your opponents up and keep the ball out of the end zone and not create touchbacks,” he said. “When those field position opportunities come up, you have to perform there as well as you do as when you’re backed up and you have to exchange field position. I think Zoltan has done a good job of forcing those fair catches and giving us a chance to keep the ball out of the end zone. So, his average obviously is not going to be like it is if you’re continuously punting from your territory backed like you are in plus-50. So that part of it he’s done a really good job trying to control field position for us.”
As for Gostkowski, the kicker struggled at the start of the season with some misses field goals – including a potential game-winner against the Cardinals in Week 2 – but O’Brien never lost faith in him.
“I have a lot of confidence in Stephen,” O’Brien said. “I don’t think he’s lost his confidence at all. He’s missed a couple that he’d like to have back — we all would like to have back — but the most important thing is that he can learn from either the misses or the ones he does make to make sure he can correct himself if he does miss. There’s probably nobody more disappointed when he does miss it than himself.
“And again, there are a lot of things that have to happen well for him. We have to snap the ball good for him. We have to hold it good for him and then obviously give him the opportunity to kick the ball and make the field goal. But, I don’t think there’s any concern about the confidence. He’s a self-starter, he’s very competitive. He works very hard at it. The good thing is when he makes contact, he has a pretty good idea of what has happened as a result so he can [move] on to get ready to kick the next one.”
Here are a few other highlights from O’Brien’s Tuesday afternoon Q&A:
Read the rest of this entry »
|There’s something special about these Patriots||11.26.12 at 10:48 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have always preached the value of special teams, and this year is no exception.
“We really look at the special teams as being a third of the game,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick on a conference call Monday afternoon. “The field position part of it is huge, trying to start offensively on a shorter field or play defensively on a longer field, as well as taking advantage of our scoring opportunities on the field-goal team and making game-changing plays in the kicking game. That’s always one of our goals every week.”
Belichick said that it all starts with good field position, an area where the Patriots done well, thanks in large part to kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Zoltan Mesko and the coverage units. According to Football Outsiders, through 11 games, New England’s opponents have averaged the worst average starting field position in the league (an average of the 23.18-yard line).
Meanwhile, the Patriots’ average drive has started on the 30.05-yard line, seventh-best in the league. (By way of comparison, the Giants lead the league in starting field position, opening drives at the 31.27.)
“Field position is huge – trying to start offensively on a shorter field or trying to play defensively on a longer field, as well as taking advantage of our scoring opportunities on the field goal team and making plays, game changing plays in the kicking game, which is one of our goals every week,” he said.
“Statistically, that field position edge eventually comes into play, not necessarily on any individual series or possession, but over the long haul. We all know the importance of field position and scoring opportunities and making big plays in the kicking game.”
On Monday, Belichick lauded the work of his special teamers — as well as the two special teams coaches — for the role they have played over the course of New England’s recent five-game winning streak.
“I think that Scott and Joe Judge, our two special-teams coaches, do a great job of coaching the players,” he said. “Taking the young guys and improving them, watching some of our younger guys perform for us in the kicking game, as well as some of our veteran players, bringing it all together.”
That work has manifested itself throughout the course of the season with great field position, but it’s also shown up in the box score the last two games. Two weeks ago, Julian Edelman had a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown in a win over the Colts. Last Thursday, Edelman scored when Devin McCourty forced a fumble off a kick return from New York’s Joe McKnight.
“I think those are huge momentum plays,” said special teams captain Matthew Slater. “When you look at a game, you’re not counting on special teams to score every game — it’s just not realistic for that to happen. But when it does happen, it brings a huge momentum swing to the game. In the case of the last two weeks it’s been huge for us, as far as getting momentum going and allowing us to get some separation against our opponent.”
While Slater isn’t the one scoring touchdowns, Belichick celebrated his hard work and ability to create some consistency among the special teamers.
“Matt Slater has done a great job as the captain of the special teams with his leadership and making it a total cohesive unit even though it’s six different units but it’s still more players on all of them,” Belichick said. “He’s doing a great job with that this year.”
“We’re a very close-knit group of guys,” said the 27-year-old Slater, who was named a Pro Bowler last year for his special teams skills. “We understand what our role is in this league, we understand how we’re going to keep jobs in this league, and we take a lot of pride in what we do.”
|Bill Belichick asks: ‘What more could [Adam Vinatieri] do’ to get into the Hall of Fame?||11.16.12 at 2:33 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Leave it to Bill Belichick to answer a highly-debated question with several of his own. Such was the case Friday when he was asked if Adam Vinatieri – and all of his huge kicks – deserves a bust in Canton when he finally hangs up the cleats.
“He’s certainly one of the greatest kickers I’ve ever seen since I’ve been in the league – the longevity, the production, the performance in championships and big games,” Belichick said. “What more could he do? Go out there and play wide receiver and catch a bunch of passes? Is that what he needs to do? I don’t know. What more could he do? I don’t know what more Dave Jennings could have done at his position or Ray Guy or guys like that. What else would they have had to do? Get a bunch of interceptions? We don’t judge quarterbacks on their rushing yardage.
“We don’t judge them on how many tackles they made. I don’t know if we even judge them on how many games they win. We judge them on a lot of their quarterback rating and stats and running backs on rushing yardage. What does a guy have to do if he excels at his position? Is that good enough? I don’t know. Like I said, you’d have to ask somebody that knows a lot more about it than I do because I don’t understand what the criteria is.”
He left after the 2005 season and has been in Indianapolis ever since.
“I know it’s been a while,” Belichick said. “I’ve been fortunate to have two good kickers here, two real good kickers.”
Vinatieri is still making big kicks, including a game-winning 50-yarder with eight seconds left in regulation against Minnesota on Sept. 16 in a 23-20 Colts win.
“That was a big kick Adam made in overtime at the end of the [Minnesota] game, the 50-yarder,” Belichick said. “That was a big kick. I’ve seen him make a lot of those.”
At this point, only Jan Stenerud is the only “pure” placekicker in the Hall of Fame. George Blanda made it but he was a quarterback for the great Raiders teams of the 60s and early 70s. Lou Groza is in but he was also an offensive tackle. And perhaps most egregious, Ray Guy does not have a bust in Canton.
So, with what Vinatieri has accomplished, he’s a slam dunk to become the second place-kicker in the Hall, right?
“I think that’s a good question,” Belichick began. “I don’t know what Hall of Fame means. There are guys who have great, long careers. There are other guys with very short careers in the Hall of Fame; from championship teams, there are guys that never or hardly ever played on winning teams. There are guys with personal stats, there are guys with I’d say less personal stats but maybe more championships or more longevity. I don’t know what the criteria is for the Hall of Fame, I’m not in any position to be honest with you. That’s something you’d have to ask the Hall of Fame committee or voters or something like that, because I don’t really know what the criteria is. I don’t know if it’s ever been defined. I don’t know if it’s a popularity contest or if it’s a political thing. I don’t know what it is. It’s hard for me to believe that. as great as this game is, that there are no punters and one kicker in the Hall of Fame. Read the rest of this entry »
|Patriots prepare for Wembley||10.23.12 at 10:38 pm ET|
The Patriots technically will be the road team when they face the Rams on Sunday, but they’ve got more than a trip to Missouri on the itinerary.
Sunday’s game, to be played at Wembley Stadium, will mark the second time the Pats have played in London. Their first go at it was a success, as they trounced the Buccaneers, 35-7, in a game in which then-Bucs quarterback Josh Johnson threw three picks.
Stephen Gostkowski didn’t have to kick any field goals in that game, but the Patriots’ five touchdowns kept him busy with extra points. Gostkowski recalls the trip fondly, mainly for the win.
“Well we won, and we beat Tampa pretty good,” he said. “If we go out and beat the Rams pretty good, then we’ll have a really good time.
“I doubt we’ll have too much fun to really enjoy and go sightseeing,” he added. “Maybe take a tour bus, I don’t know. They haven’t told us the schedule yet, so it will be fun if we win and we’ll have a good time.”
Pats safety Steve Gregory doesn’t know whether his hip will allow him to make the trip to London this time around, but if he does it would be his second trip to Wembley. Gregory played against the Saints in London as a member of the Chargers in 2008.
“It was great,” Gregory said of the experience. “We went out there for a full week. We played in Buffalo first and then flew straight out there, but it was great. It was a great experience. I had never been there before, so to see London, the overall experience was amazing.”
Gregory recalls some tell-tale signs that American football wasn’t the main reason for the stadium’s existence.
“Some of the people had all different jerseys on and stuff. I think they were cheering more when guys kicked a field goal than when a regular play went on, but it was fun,” he said. “It was a good time.”
|Stephen Gostkowski back on track||at 1:21 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Before Sunday, Stephen Gostkowski had failed in his biggest clutch moment of the season, missing what would have been a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation in a two-point loss to the Cardinals.
Gostkowski corrected his reputation Sunday, hitting a 43-yard game-tying field goal late in regulation against the Jets before drilling a 48-yarder in overtime to give the Pats the lead for good in overtime.
“I mean, it was positive for everyone,” Gostkowski said Tuesday. “We won and I got a chance to help the team and I came through. It was fun and it was a good feeling to come out with a win, a division win against a team that we like to beat.”
Because of the new overtime rules, Gostkowski’s kick didn’t end the game, allowing the Jets to potentially tie the game with a field goal of their own or win the game with a touchdown. Neither of those happened, as a Mark Sanchez fumble that was recovered by Rob Ninkovich sealed the win for New England. As such, Gostkowski’s field goal wasn’t quite as dramatic, but it got the job done.
“No, I knew the rules,” he said with a laugh. “It kind of stunk because there would have been a lot more reacting and fun if we could have celebrated a little differently, but a win’s a win. It’s not about me or being able to celebrate. It was fun to win.”
Gostkowski is now 6-for-6 on field goal attempts over the last three weeks. As for the missed field goals, the veteran kicker said they’re all painful, regardless of circumstance.
“I try to keep the same focus whether it’s the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter kick because there have been games where I’ve made or missed kicks that we’ve ended up winning by three, or that three points could have really helped,” he said. “The dramatics of it might change when you look back at it, but during games I want to make every kick. If I were to miss a kick in the first quarter, I’d be just as upset as if I missed one at the end of the game.”
|Devin McCourty: The 104-yard TD return ‘what a special teams coach would love to see’||10.22.12 at 2:01 am ET|
FOXBORO — It was the best of times and the worst of times for Devin McCourty and Scott O’Brien on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
In the first quarter of New England’s 29-26 overtime win against the Jets, McCourty took a kickoff four yards deep in the end zone and returned it 104 yards for a touchdown that tied the game, 7-7, and gave the Patriots new energy.
“It was a kind of what a special teams coach would love to see, ran the ball, made one cut and everyone else got blocked except the kicker,” said McCourty, who deked Jets kicker Nick Folk on his way to paydirt. “When your kickoff return team does that, block everyone except for one guy, as a returner, you’ve got to score right there.”
Then came the nightmare for McCourty and special teams coach O’Brien.
McCourty took a hit from Lex Hilliard at the Patriots 15 and fumbled, with Hillard recovering at the Patriots 18 after the Jets had tied the game, 23-23. The Jets did not take full advantage and converted only a field goal with 1:37 left to take a 26-23 lead.
“My teammates saved my life today,” McCourty said. “A bad mistake in the fourth quarter that I just have to do a better job of holding the ball. This was just a total team win. We just kept fighting. Things didn’t go our way the whole game today. We made enough plays when we needed to for the win.”
McCourty was rescued when Stephen Gostkowski hit a game-tying 43-yard field goal at the end of regulation to force overtime and a 48-yarder in overtime to provide the margin of victory.
“That’s not something that I think I should do and plan on doing so just paying more attention and securing the ball better. I can’t let those other 10 guys down that are working hard to make some tough blocks out there. Whether it’s a score or not, I just can’t let the ball go.”
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