|Rob Ninkovich on M&M: Antonio Smith’s insinuation ‘kind of a silly comment’||12.02.13 at 12:24 pm ET|
Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to talk about New England’s 34-31 win over the Texans on Sunday.
The Patriots moved to 9-3 on the season, but Houston defensive end Antonio Smith stole the spotlight with his comments after his team’s 10th straight loss. After the game Smith said he was “very suspicious” of New England’s adjustments in the second half, after the Patriots fell behind 17-7 in the first 30 minutes.
“It’s kind of a silly comment,” Ninkovich said. “I’m sure they’re a little upset that in the second half they couldn’t stop Tom [Brady] and our offense. It’s a comment where I really don’t know where that would come from.”
Stephen Gostkowski kicked the game-winning field goal with just over three minutes remaining to complete the comeback. The Texans also held a 31-28 lead in the fourth quarter.
“It’s an emotional game that we play, and people put a lot of heart and effort into preparing for a football game,” Ninkovich said, adding: “That’s a tough loss. … When you lose 10 in a row, I’m sure there’s a ton of frustration in that locker room.”
Ninkovich and his defensive unit did not play well against the hapless Texans. Rookie quarterback Case Keenum threw for 272 yards, and running back Ben Tate rushed for 102 yards and three touchdowns. Keenum also ran for a touchdown.
“We definitely do have to do a better job of playing our responsibilities and everyone doing their job,” said Ninkovich, who made four tackles and recorded two QB hits. “Good team defense is everybody playing their gap responsibly and not having those holes.”
The game was the Patriots’ second straight come-from-behind win. Two weeks ago, New England trailed the Broncos 24-0 heading into the third quarter. The Patriots went on to win 34-31 in overtime.
“We need to figure it out and play better, because you can’t spot a team 17, 24 [points], whatever it may be, in the first half and expect to win every game,” Ninkovich said.
|Kyle Arrington on M&M: Wes Welker ‘one of the most talented guys I’ve matched up against’||11.25.13 at 1:32 pm ET|
Patriots defensive back Kyle Arrington joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to discuss his team’s 34-31 comeback win in overtime against the Broncos on Sunday night.
After trailing 24-0 at halftime, Arrington and New England’s defense stymied Denver in the second half and paved the way for a Tom Brady-led comeback.
“We just rallied behind each other, played for each other and had confidence not only in ourselves but in our teammates,” Arrington said. “We were just battle-tested, and we’re going to fight to the very end.”
The Patriots scored 31 unanswered points to start the second half, then eventually won on a Stephen Gostkowski 31-yard field goal in overtime.
“It’s hard to play a complete 60-minute football game, but just credit our guys who just kept battling and fighting,” Arrington said. “As long as there’s time left on that clock, we’re going to battle.”
The New England offense lost three fumbles in the first quarter, putting the defense in a number of inauspicious positions.
“[There was] naturally a little frustration, because we dug ourselves quite a hole, but to come back and win it in that fashion, it’s very rewarding,” Arrington said. “To be in a hole like that, and just crawl our way out of it slowly but surely, it’s a testament to the character of the guys in our locker room.”
|Stephen Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month||10.31.13 at 10:46 am ET|
FOXBORO — Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October, it was announced Thursday.
Gostkowski made all nine of his field goal attempts over the course of the month, and delivered a big kick at the end of regulation against the Jets in New Jersey on Oct. 20 to send the game to overtime. He also had a career-long of 54-yards in the 30-27 win against New Orleans on Oct. 13, and totaled 36 of the Patriots’ 90 points for the month.
He’s 20-of-21 on field goal attempts in 2013 and leads the NFL with his 20 field goals. His 77 overall points are second in the NFL to Matt Prater of Denver, who has 79 total points, and has made 15 consecutive field goals, including two from 50 or more yards with a 53-yarder and a 54-yarder.
The 29-year-old Gostkowski, who was a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in 2006, also won the award in October 2008.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Who’s next: 10 looming contractual questions for Patriots||09.23.13 at 8:43 pm ET|
With Rob Ninkovich in the fold — the defensive end signed a three-year extension with the Patriots over the weekend — here are 10 contractual questions facing New England over the next year-plus that have to be addressed.
Contract up after 2013
Cornerback Aqib Talib In a depressed free agent market for corners, Talib took $5 million to return to New England on a show-me deal last offseason. That deal was a win-win for both sides: the Patriots got a player motivated by a one-year contract, while Talib will get a chance to hit the market again after the 2013 season. He’s off to a terrific start (three picks in three games), and could be in line for a big deal when he becomes a free agent at the end of the year.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes — A huge question. One of the league’s best run-stoppers, he remains a force in the middle of New England’s run defense. But at the same time, he hasn’t shown an ability to evolve much beyond that into a fully formed three-down linebacker. If he’s looking for a big deal, his struggles in coverage could limit him, but if he stays healthy over the course of the 2013 season, he should also command a big contract when he hits the open market.
Center Ryan Wendell — Wendell has done a very good job of holding down the middle of New England’s offensive line since he moved into the full-time gig at the start of the 2012 season. Last year, Pro Football Focus rated him as the best run-blocking center in the league, and his durability was unmatched — his 1,379 snaps were the most among all New England players. The Patriots have never been shy about doling out big deals to their offensive linemen, and Wendell could be the next in line for a tidy payday.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman — The slot receiver was a free agent afterthought this offseason, signing a deal to return to New England after visiting with the Giants. But Edelman’s familiarity with the system and the quarterback has paid off over the first three games of the year to the tune of 27 catches — only one other pass catcher over the last decade has had a better start to his season than Edelman (Wes Welker, who had 31 catches in the first three games of the 2011 season). If Edelman stays healthy, he could be rewarded with a big payday next offseason — bigger than the $765,000 deal he got last offseason, anyway.
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|Sebastian Vollmer on M&M: ‘We know we didn’t play well enough’||09.09.13 at 12:35 pm ET|
Patriots offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer appeared on Mut & Merloni on Monday and acknowledged that his team hardly played its best football in Sunday’s 23-21 win over the Bills.
“We know we didn’t play well enough,” Vollmer said. “We’ve got some fixing to do and adjustments to do. [We'll] watch some film and start working on it today.”
A sloppy afternoon from a usually crisp offense was highlighted by running back Stevan Ridley‘s fumble that was returned for a Buffalo touchdown. Ridley subsequently was benched.
Vollmer harbored no resentment toward Ridley for his error.
“If you make a mistake, we’re all professionals, we all know what we did wrong and what happened and no one does it on purpose,” Vollmer said. “Any player that makes a mistake feels bad about it.”
Despite the poor play on the offensive side, the Patriots were able to put together a game-winning drive on the road behind Tom Brady. Trailing by one point with 4:31 remaining, Brady orchestrated a 12-play, 48-yard drive that set up a 35-yard, game-winning field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with five seconds remaining.
Vollmer, now a fifth-year mainstay on the line, has seen drives akin to that a number of times, with Brady being vocal and emotional.
“He’s done this for a long, long time now, and he lives for these moments,” Vollmer said of Brady. “Once again, he pulled it out — or, we pulled it out.
“Obviously when it’s a close game, you have maybe one or two possessions left, you can’t afford any more mistakes and you’ve just got to pull it out somehow, and just make sure everyone is on the same page, and everyone is ready to go and concentrating on what comes next.”
|Camp Confidential: At midway point of preseason, here are five up and five down for Patriots||08.18.13 at 11:56 am ET|
Two weeks into camp and with two preseason games complete, here’s a look at five players who are on the rise, and five players who need to have a good week to bounce back in the wake of Friday’s game against Tampa Bay.
Brandon Spikes: The electric linebacker, who is always interesting, gave the New England defense an early jolt on Friday night with some big plays. He was extremely disruptive in the running game — as usual — but also showed a nice flair for getting to the passer Friday night. While both of his sacks came on non-traditional pass rush situations, Spikes, who has one career regular-season sack, created havoc in the backfield which led to negative plays for the Bucs. He upended Doug “Muscle Hamster” Martin on one play where the undersized back tried to block him, and that ended up in a sack. He added another later in the first half. If he can continue his evolution from two-down linebacker to more of a complete threat (and stay healthy), he could be in for a truly great year.
Zach Sudfeld: The undrafted rookie out of Nevada has gone from anonymous free agent to quaint underdog story to someone who is continuing to put together consistent performances. He had a pair of catches Friday against Tampa, including a touchdown grab on a pass from Ryan Mallett and a reception from Tom Brady on a two-point conversion that was a really sweet pickup. While he still is a work-in-progress when it comes to his blocking on the NFL level, at this point, it would be unfathomable if he didn’t make the roster. He’ll face another challenge in his development next week against the Lions.
Tom Brady: Frankly. the quarterback has been stunning in his two preseason outings. In 39 snaps, he’s a combined 18-for-20 for 172 yards, two touchdowns and no picks — about as well as you could play, considering the massive turnover at the offensive skill positions. On Friday against Tampa, he orchestrated a masterful opening scoring drive that went 15 plays and 80 yards and took 6:48. Along the way, Brady and the Patriots were able to overcome a pair of penalties on the New England offensive line (Logan Mankins and Ryan Wendell), and ended up punching it in on an impressive 26-yard pass play from Brady to Danny Amendola. His performance must be taken with a grain of salt because the calendar hasn’t yet turned from August to September, but if there were any questions about his physical well-being (no problem with the left knee on Friday, his mental health (after losing his favorite target in Wes Welker) and overall passion for the game (just ask the offensive linemen who got cussed out after the penalties), the quarterback has left no doubt: He’s all in.
Logan Ryan: The rookie defensive back out of Rutgers continues to climb the depth chart, and had one of the best moments of the preseason for any first year player when he picked off a pass Friday night against the Bucs. It was similar to a situation in practice earlier in the week when he was able to read the play and jump the route, a nice play that displayed vision and ball skills. He’s not quite a starter, but he’s certainly done enough to rise to the level of backup, and a good, consistent series of practices — as well as two more good outings in the preseason — should cement a spot with the No. 2 defense on the depth chart by the start of the regular season.
Danny Amendola: While the rookies like Sudfeld, KenBrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce have gotten most of the headlines this summer for their work, Amendola has been the best and most consistent wide receiver for the team since the start of camp. He had an impressive outing in the Friday’s win over the Bucs, catching six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. It’s clear that even though he and Brady are continuing to build chemistry, there’s no reason to think Amendola won’t catch at least 80 balls if he stays healthy.
|Bill Belichick still thinks Stephen Gostkowski is ‘one of the best kickers in the league’||08.17.13 at 3:26 pm ET|
It hasn’t been the best of camps in terms of productivity for Stephen Gostkowski. But his coach isn’t worried, a point that was underscored Saturday in a conference call with reporters.
Friday night, Gostkowski connected on a 39-yard field goal in the first quarter. He connected on a 35-yarder in the third quarter but it was nullified by a holding penalty. He moved back five yards to attempt a 45-yarder only to have a false start make a routine 35-yarder turn into a not-so routine 50-yard attempt. That kick was struck well but faded at the last moment and hit the right upright, falling to the ground for his third miss of the preseason.
“I think he’s had a good camp, he’s worked really hard, he’s in good condition, he’s kicked the ball well – he’s been hitting the ball very solidly consistently,” Belichick said when asked Saturday. “I know that he’ll continue to work hard to do everything he can, and so will the other people involved in the operation, snapping and holding, however that turns out.”
Against Philadelphia, Gostkowski missed wide right from 44 and 53 yards.
“I have confidence that he’s one of the best kickers in the league,” Belichick said.
Unlike the punting job, which is currently a battle between Zoltan Mesko and Ryan Allen, there is no current competition to Gostkowski, who is in the fourth year of a five-year contract paying him $15.7 million.
Instead of focusing on Gostkowski, Belichick said the entire kicking operation can improve.
“He’s a part of that, but so is the snapper and so is the holder,” Belichick said. “We’ve had three different snappers and two different holders in camp and in the preseason games. You want to have multiple people ready, which means that multiple people will have to work with each other. At some point, we have to settle in to whichever guys it is that we think are going to do most of the work this year at that position.”
Gostkowski is 2-for-5 so far in the preseason with both kicks under 40 yards, a 34-yard success against the Eagles and a 39-yard connection Friday against Tampa Bay. While Belichick was supportive, he added that if the struggles continue, he wouldn’t rule out bringing in competition.
“As I’ve said many times before, I would consider doing anything that I think would help our team,” Belichick said. “I wouldn’t rule anything in or out. If there is something that we can do that would help our football team, then as part of my job, that’s what I try to do.”
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