|How Bill Belichick views the 2-minute drill and why it matters||11.14.14 at 1:14 pm ET|
FOXBORO — No one in football has scored as often in the two-minute drill like the Patriots have this season. At least, the two-minute drill before halftime.
But as we learned from Patriots coach Bill Belichick Friday, there’s a big, big difference in his mind between scoring in the final two minutes of the first half and scoring when the game is on the line.
In nine games, the Patriots have scored 12 times in the two minutes before halftime. They scored three times against the Bears when Jay Cutler and company gave them the game. They scored twice apiece against the Bills and Bengals. (It should be noted that the 12 times includes the blocked field goal return against the Vikings by Chandler Jones and a 15-yard fumble return against the Bears by Rob Ninkovich).
As the clock winds down to :00, the Patriots have been particularly deadly, kicking three Stephen Gostkowski field goals as time expired while scoring six times under 10 seconds.
But the truth of the matter is the Patriots have not been tested with the game on the line. Only two games have come down to the final possession and in both cases, against the Raiders and Jets, the Patriots held on because of a lack of execution by the opponent.
“The two-minute at the end of the half is a lot different than the two-minute at the end of the game,” Belichick said. “They’re two, really completely different situations. I mean, I know everybody talks about them like they’re the same, but to me they’re not anything the same. You don’t have to score at the end of the half. I mean, if you have to score at the end of the game to win the game, then that’s a totally different situation.”
Time will tell if Belichick’s team can handle that situation at the end of a game. This week, as has been well-documented, features two clutch kickers in Adam Vinatieri and Gostkowski who have been extremely dependable.
“If you don’t score at the end of the half, then you haven’t lost the game,’ Belichick added. “Do you want to score? Yeah, you want to score every time you have the ball, that’s why you put the offense out there, but it’s just different at the end of the half.
“Try to take what you can get, if not, you don’t want to put yourself at more risk than you have to. At the end of the game you’ve gotta do whatever you’ve gotta do to move the ball and get in position to win the game. So if you have to take chances, if you have to do things you may not want to do in order to have an opportunity to make the plays you need to make, then you’re willing to do that. But it’s dictated by the situation.”
Field position can dictate, more than anything at the end of the first half, whether a team wants to go down and do everything possible to score. But there’s the fine line of not wanting to give the opponent another chance.
“I think field position is part of it, but so is everything else: time, timeouts, how you match up in that situation,” Belichick said. “I think it’s all part of it. I think there are a lot of factors in that, in what you call and what happens in the sequence of plays that you call. Each one is different. Obviously, there are some common threads, but I think each situation each week is different based on the matchups and based on whatever the specific situation is: time, timeouts, field position, playing conditions, etcetera.”
|Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski and Matthew Slater among top Pro Bowl vote-getters||11.13.14 at 8:30 am ET|
With the first wave of voting complete, three members of the Patriots lead Pro Bowl voting at their respective positions.
Rob Gronkowski leads voting among tight ends with 166,066 votes, while kicker Stephen Gostkowski (67,814 votes) and special teamer Matthew Slater (36,679 votes) are also currently leading their groupings.
As for quarterback Tom Brady, he’s fourth among quarterbacks with 254,807, behind only Peyton Manning (359,598), Andrew Luck (284,575), Aaron Rodgers (280,394). He’s fifth overall, as he’s just nudged out by running back DeMarco Murray (263,097).
Despite the fact that Brady is near the top of the voting totals, don’t expect him to make it, even if the Patriots are able to play. The quarterback has been voted to the Pro Bowl in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, but the last time he actually went to the Pro Bowl was 2004.
The Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 25 in Arizona the week before the Super Bowl.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|Stephen Gostkowski: Adam Vinatieri is ‘super impressive’ but it’s not a head-to-head battle between kickers||11.11.14 at 3:37 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’ll be a special teams showdown on Sunday night, as two of the best and most consistent kickers in the league will meet under the dome at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Indy’s Adam Vinatieri and New England’s Stephen Gostkowski are the only two kickers in the league who have attempted at least 20 field goals and have a success rate of better than 95 percent. (Vinatieri is 20-for-20 on the season, while Gostkowski is 24-for-25.)
“He’s really kicking the ball great,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the 41-year-old Vinatieri. “The ball goes perfectly straight, doesn’t move. Every kick is right on the money. You have to try and block it, waiting for him to miss you’ll be waiting all day. You have to see if you can somehow affect the kick, but he’s kicked the ball great. No question.”
Vinatieri’s resume should be enough to get him to the Hall of Fame, as he distinguished himself as one of the best big-game kickers of his generation. Part of three Patriots’ Super Bowl teams, he left New England for Indy following the 2005 season, and has managed to continue to kick at a high level since then.
“He’s super impressive,” Gostkowski said of the guy he replaced. “I mean, the guy is unbelievable. I’ve heard stories of how hard he works, and all that stuff. To be able to be that good … I don’t know how he feels, but he doesn’t make it look like he feels old. I wouldn’t say 42 is old, but he’s doing a good job.”
Of course, Gostkowski has assembled an impressive resume in his own right. The 30-year-old was named an All-Pro in 2008, and led the league in scoring in 2012 and 2013. After nine games, he leads the NFL in scoring this season with 101 points — nine points ahead of Vinatieri.
Gostkowski said a head-to-head matchup with Vinatieri doesn’t enter into his thought process.
“All I’m worried about is kicking some touchbacks and scoring a lot of points and hopefully we can win,” he said. “I admire every kicker in the NFL — I know how hard it is to be successful in a week-in, week-out basis, and no one has done it better than Adam, and he deserves all the accolades and respect in the world.
“But it doesn’t pass my mind. I’m more worried about playing in a dome and getting ready to kick there. If he goes out and kicks nine field goals, it doesn’t affect me one way or another.”
|Bill Belichick on Adam Vinatieri: ‘I don’t think anyone is kicking better than he is’||at 10:29 am ET|
FOXBORO — Sunday’s game with the Colts will feature two of the best quarterbacks in the game in Tom Brady and Andrew Luck, but the game will also pin two of the best kickers in the game against one another in Stephen Gostkowski and former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri.
Of kickers in the NFL with 15 or more field goal attempts, Gostkowski and Vinatieri are the best in the league when it comes to percentages. Vinatieri is a perfect 20-for-20 (100 percent) with a long of 50 this year, while Gostkowski is 24-for-25 (96 percent) with a long of 53.
Coach Bill Belichick had nothing but praise for his former kicker on Tuesday.
“He’s really kicking the ball great,” he said. “The ball goes perfectly straight, doesn’t move. Every kick is right on the money. You have to try and block it, waiting for him to miss you’ll be waiting all day. You have to see if you can somehow affect the kick, but he’s kicked the ball great. No question.”
The 41-year-old is in a great place in Indianapolis as he only kicks field goals with Pat McAfee handling the kickoff duties. Belichick doesn’t see an end in the near future.
“Right now, I don’t think anyone is kicking better than he is,” said Belichick. “There’s a lot of guys kicking good, but I don’t think anyone is kicking better. He’s in a great situation as far as not having to deal with kickoffs, but as far as putting the ball down between the uprights, tremendous. The way he’s kicking now I don’t see where the end in sight is. Distance isn’t a problem. He gets good lift on the ball, not exceptional, but good. He’s kicking in a good environment, so he’s drilling it. Looks great.”
After placing the franchise tag on Vinatieri in 2004, the Patriots chose not to in 2005 allowing him to become a free agent. After 10 seasons with New England, the kicker signed with the Colts. He is still the all-time leading scorer in Patriots history with 1,158 points, while Gostkowski is third with 1,111.
Belichick said the decision to move on from Vinatieri was just part of the business.
“Look, it’s the NFL,”he said. “Players change teams every year. This isn’t a big news story is it? Players change teams.”
“Look, I’ve always had a good relationship with Adam,” he added. “The NFL is a business, I’m not trying to write a story for you here, but this isn’t news. There is free agency every year. Players change teams. We get them, other guys get our guys.”
|5 things you have to know about Colts||11.10.14 at 3:07 pm ET|
Here are five things you have to know about the Colts, who will face the Patriots this week Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
1. Andrew Luck is playing at an MVP level.
The Colts quarterback has had a terrific first half of the year, and is on pace to finish 444-for-699 (64 percent) for 5,484 yards with 46 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. (At that rate, the entire city of Indianapolis will be growing neckbeards by the end of the season.) Part of his success can be rooted in the fact that the Colts are playing in a mostly pillowy-soft division, and he’s managed to take advantage of a couple of woeful defenses in Jacksonville and Tennessee (he was a combined 60-for-80 for 763 yards, eight touchdowns and one pick in back-to-back games earlier in the year against the Jags and Titans). But at the same time, he’s risen to the challenge nicely when faced with some of the better defenses in the NFL. He’s passed for at least 300 yards in seven straight games, and at this point in the season, he’s one of two quarterbacks who have a completion percentage better than 60 percent (64), has thrown for at least 3,000 yards (3,085) and has at least 20 touchdown passes. The only reason Ben Roethlisberger is the other one in the conversation is because he’s played 10 games, while Luck is at nine.
2. For a (presumably) playoff-bound team, they don’t do a great job taking care of the football.
As good as Luck has been at times this season, he has been occasionally careless with the football, and can throw some bad picks. He’s throw nine interceptions on the year, which ties him for third in the league with luminaries like Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins. (Luck had nine all year last season.) The Colts have also fumbled the ball six times, but are still even when it comes to takeaway ratio (six interceptions and nine fumbles recovered on defense).
3. They don’t do a great job defending tight ends.
Indy has what can be be described as an above-average secondary, with some talented corners. But at the same time, the Colts have had issues against good tight ends this season. According to Football Outsiders, through Week 9 the Colts are 29th in the league in defending tight ends. In all, the Colts have allowed 49 receptions for 577 yards and seven touchdowns, an average of 11.8 yards per catch. Those numbers should be sweet music to the ears of the Patriots, who have leaned heavily on Rob Gronkowski over the course of the last five weeks, and will almost certainly do the same this time around against Indy. Gronkowski has caught 36 passes for 516 yards and five touchdowns over the last five weeks, while the Colts have had issues containing players like Heath Miller (seven catches on eight targets for 112 yards and a touchdown), Owen Daniels (five catches on seven targets for 70 yards), Zach Ertz (four catches, 86 yards) and Delanie Walker (five catches on seven targets for 84 yards and a touchdown). If they had issues with Walker, Indy will almost certainly have problems trying to slow Gronkowski.
|2-minute drill: Patriots dominating final minutes of first halves||11.05.14 at 7:42 pm ET|
Just as prevalent as the Patriots winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half seems to be the Patriots scoring at the end of the first half and then carrying it over to score on the first possession of the second half.
New England has dominated the end of first halves this year as they have scored with less than two minutes in the first half in eight of its nine games this season – 12 overall scores totaling 56 points. The only game they failed to score in the final two minutes was against Kansas City.
The latest came this past Sunday against Denver when Shane Vereen caught a 5-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left in the first half, extending the Patriots’ lead to 27-7.
The drive drew the praise of coach Bill Belichick.
“That was a big one too,” Belichick said of the drive Monday with Dale & Holley. “That’s how you want to draw it up against Denver. You get the ball with 2:08 or whatever it was and — A. they don’t get it back and B. you drive down and put points on the board and C. you get a touchdown and they get a kneel-down play. So, we negated their two-minute offense with that drive and we didn’t give them a chance to answer.”
The Patriots have won the opening coin toss five times this season — always deferring to the second half — giving them five chances to take advantage of back-to-back scores by scoring at the end of the half and then the first possession of the second half.
|Patriots elect Matthew Slater NFLPA player rep, Darrelle Revis alternate||10.03.14 at 10:51 am ET|
FOXBORO — In a move that hardly comes as a surprise, Patriots players have elected special teams captain Matthew Slater as their Players Association player rep to handle all matters between the union and the team.
The NFLPA made the announcement Friday morning on its Twitter page.
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) October 3, 2014