|When was the last time Patriots special teams had an afternoon as bad as it did on Sunday?||12.08.15 at 8:30 am ET|
Over the last several years, the Patriots special teams has become an absolutely integral part of the success of the franchise. Dating back to the early days of Bill Belichick, there was an emphasis on special teams, and the work of specialists like Troy Brown and Adam Vinatieri made a sizable difference in the success of the franchise. Going forward, those names became part of a strong lineage that continues to this day with the likes of Stephen Gostkowski, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater.
That’s why the moments of unquestioned failure on the part of the Patriots’ special teams are few and far between. That was one of the reasons why their performance against the Eagles in defeat Sunday was so surprising. New England was unable to execute on two of three onsides kicks (that included an odd-drop kick by Nate Ebner), had one punt blocked and had a punt returned 83 yards for a touchdown by Philly’s Darren Sproles.
“It was very disappointing. We have a lot of guys who take a lot of pride in that phase of the game,” Slater said after the loss. “Obviously, tonight was unacceptable.”
On the heels of the muffed punt from Chris Harper the week before that played a part in the loss to the Broncos, it was a tough pill to swallow for a team that takes such pride in its special teams play. But it got us wondering: When was the last time New England’s special teams had such an unfortunate turn of events in one afternoon? We had to go back more than five years to find the game: Nov. 7. 2010 against the Browns in Cleveland.
That game was a poor one all around for the Patriots, who managed just a pair of touchdowns while Cleveland’s Peyton Hillis ran for an astounding 184 yards on 29 carries in the 34-14 for the Browns. And while there were several notable takeaways from the game, including the fact that Eric Mangini claimed victory over Bill Belichick, the fact that there were a few special teams breakdowns played a role in the defeat.
|How Troy Brown gave Bill Belichick some valuable perspective on cutdown process||08.31.15 at 12:44 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Turns out, Bill Belichick does listen to the media, at least when one of those media members is a respected former player.
“I think Troy Brown made a comment a couple of weeks ago when he said, ‘I knew that when I came into the league, I knew that it was a long shot for me to make a team. I was probably going to get cut and all that. I felt like my job every day was to make it as hard as possible for Coach Parcells to make that decision. I wanted to make his job tough for him to cut me,'” Belichick said.
Belichick said he and his staff are in a tough spot for a very good reason. Many of his players in different groups have battled hard to make the decision on whether to cut or keep a player very challenging. In two particular groups, wide receiver and running back, especially the third-down back spot, it’s going to be razor-thin.
“It’s definitely made it hard. We’ve have a lot of guys do that,” Belichick said.
“I’d say there have been a number of guys that have done that this year in preseason. They’ve kind of taken that phrase that Troy used and really have done that. They’ve forced us to make some hard decisions because of how competitively they’ve played and vice versa. Guys at a spot where there’s a lot of competition, instead of one or two guys rising and one or two guys fading out, in some cases several members of that group have all competitively risen the level of their game to make some very tough decisions.”
The wide receiver spot includes new names like Chris Harper and Jonathan Krause, both of whom have shown glimpses of being impact players to give depth behind the likes of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Reggie Wayne and Brandon LaFell. As for the running back group, it’s very, very competitive, with players like James White, Dion Lewis, Travaris Cadet and Tony Creecy all vying for valuable game reps as a third-down back to replace Shane Vereen.
“I would put the running back position in that,” Belichick said. “We’ve pretty much had the same group. We added Tony [Creecy]. We’ve pretty much had that same group when we lost [Tyler] Gaffney but we pretty much have the same group of guys since the beginning of the spring, with no rookies in that group other than Tony coming in a couple of weeks ago. Those guys have all competed well. They’ve all improved. They’ve all pushed each other. They’ve all worked really and they’ve all been productive. It’s a good example of that. They’re making it hard on us.”
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|Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown named honorary captains for Sunday’s AFC title game||01.16.15 at 3:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have named the three most recent inductees to the Patriots’ Hall of Fame as honorary captains for Sunday’s AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium against the Colts.
Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown will be honorary captains for the game. All three are three-time Super Bowl champions. The Patriots are playing in their fourth straight conference championship, their ninth in 14 years and their 10th AFC championship game since 1996.
“It is an honor to play in Sunday’s AFC championship game in front of our home crowd,” said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft in a press release. “We love that we are able to include three of our franchise’s most popular players in the pregame ceremonies. I think our fans will really enjoy expressing their appreciation for all the success those three players represent. I am so glad they could each be here to help us in yet another quest to win a championship.”
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|Patriots to honor 3-time Super Bowl champions during Sunday’s game||10.28.14 at 2:09 pm ET|
During the Patriots’ three Super Bowl titles in four years during the mid-2000’s, 22 players were on the team for all three. 18 of those 22 players will be honored Sunday during halftime of the Patriots’ matchup with the Broncos, as it is the 10th anniversary season of the accomplishment.
“Collectively, these 22 players will always share a special bond,” said Robert Kraft in a press release. “While individual Super Bowl teams will certainly be celebrated in the future, these 22 players represent the greatest era in franchise history and one of the greatest accomplishments in NFL history. It is always fun to participate in reunions with former players. The stories they share from their playing days are always entertaining and it is always fun to see the ovations the players get from our fans. I look forward to seeing them and sharing those experiences with them.”
The 18 players who will be honored at halftime are: Joe Andruzzi, Tom Ashworth, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Matt Chatham, Je’Rod Cherry, Kevin Faulk, Ted Johnson, Ty Law, Matt Light, Willie McGinest, Stephen Neal, Patrick Pass, David Patten, Lonie Paxton, Roman Phifer and Richard Seymour.
Tom Brady and Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri are still playing, while Larry Izzo (New York Giants), Mike Vrabel (Houston Texans) and Adrian Klemm (UCLA) are currently on active coaching staffs and will not be able to attend.
|Ty Law voted into Patriots Hall of Fame||05.19.14 at 6:47 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In what might be a precursor to his ticket to Canton, Ty Law has been voted by fans as the 22nd person to enter the Patriots Hall of Fame, the team announced Monday.
The induction ceremony will be held on the NRG Plaza outside The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon on Aug. 1 at 4:30 p.m., just prior to the team’s annual in-stadium practice for season ticket members. The outdoor hall of fame ceremony is free and open to the public. Patriots fans of all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend. In addition, Law will be honored during a halftime ceremony at the Patriots Thursday night game on Oct. 16 against the Jets.
“Ty Law was one of the greatest players in franchise history and one of the premier corners in the NFL during his Patriots career,” said Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft in a statement. “The fans have helped validate that with this year’s Hall of Fame selection. We have had an incredible run of success and the building blocks started with players like Ty. He was an important part of three Super Bowl championship teams. It will be an honor to bring Ty back to celebrate his career as he takes his rightful place in our team’s Hall of Fame. I am sure he will deliver another memorable moment during his Hall of Fame ceremony, too.”
In April, a 20-person nomination committee, comprised of media, alumni and staff, selected three candidates for consideration for the Patriots Hall of Fame. The three finalists were Law, Raymond Clayborn and Bill Parcells. Fans had a month to vote on Patriots.com for the candidate they believed was most deserving of hall of fame consideration.
Law spent 10 seasons with the Patriots (1995-2004) after joining the team as a first-round (23rd overall) draft pick out of Michigan in 1995. Law was a three-time Super Bowl Champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX), a four-time Pro Bowl player (1998, 2001, 2002, 2003) and a two-time All-Pro (1998, 2003) during his tenure with the Patriots. Law tied Clayborn’s career franchise-record with 36 interceptions and finished with the most interception return yards in team history with 583. His six interceptions returned for touchdowns are also a franchise best.
Law had nine interceptions in 1998 to become the first Patriots player to lead the NFL in that category. He was a playmaker who played some of his best games in the postseason. He helped lead the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title in 2001 when he intercepted a Kurt Warner pass against the Rams and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown for the first points of the game. In the 2003 AFC championship game, Law intercepted three Peyton Manning passes while leading the Patriots to a 24-14 victory over the Colts.
Law was part of a record-breaking Patriots defense in 2003 that led the NFL in five key categories: opponents points per game (14.9), interceptions (29), fewest touchdown receptions allowed (11), opponents passer rating (56.2) and pass deflections (121) as the team captured its second Super Bowl title in a win over the Panthers. Law is a member of the NFL’s all-decade team for the 2000s as well as the Patriots’ all-1990s and all-2000s decade teams. He was also selected to the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team.
Beginning in 2007, the Patriots started a new Hall of Fame tradition, inducting one player or coach each year. The process for induction now involves a panel of media, alumni and staff, who collectively nominate the players or coaches most deserving of induction. After the nominations are made, the committee votes and the top three tallies become that year’s finalists. The Patriots then give their fans the opportunity to vote online to select each year’s winner.
|Julian Edelman reaches two franchise milestones in win over Bills||12.29.13 at 11:02 pm ET|
FOXBORO — With all the injuries and departures that have taken place within the Patriots passing game following last season to this point in 2013 there remains one constant besides quarterback Tom Brady — wide receiver Julian Edelman.
Edelman continued his career-year Sunday, hauling in nine passes for 65 yards in the Patriots’ 34-20 win over the Bills at Gillette Stadium. Of Brady’s 14 completions, nine went to the fifth-year receiver, who completed his first full 16-game season since being drafted in 2009.
“I don’t think there’s ever been any question about Julian’s skills or his toughness or his competitiveness. Yeah, you’re right,” said head coach Bill Belichick, when asked if playing in a full season helped Edelman’s development. “This is the year he’s been able to stay on the field and certainly his production has paralleled his time on the field. He’s done a good job with his opportunities. He always practices hard, plays hard, prepares well. He’s always a tough guy you can count on from that standpoint and this year he’s been healthy.”
Being healthy was one of the main reasons for his breakout year, which saw him catch over 100 passes with a 12-yard reception in the second quarter. He entered the game with 96 catches and finished with 105, good for sixth on the all-time Patriots list for catches in a season. He became the first Patriots player not named Wes Welker to reach the milestone since 2001 and Troy Brown.
“I don’t know what the significance is,” Edelman said. “I do know that we went out there and played a pretty solid game. There were mess-ups, which, I mentally was the guy who screwed up that formation in that four-minute offense situation. I’m a little bummed about that, but it was definitely a good team-win and it was good to clinch that first-round bye.”
Edelman also eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark with a five-yard catch in the opening quarter, becoming just the 10th player in franchise history to do so, as he finished the year with 1,056. While the accolades are special, Edelman maintains helping the team win is more important.
“I mean, it’s cool and everything, but you really go out there and play for other things, like playing in the last game of the year and winning that game,” he said. “We put ourselves in an opportunity to go one step closer to that. It is definitely kind of cool, just with the road; it’s been a crazy road. It’s definitely been kind of cool.”
Playing in just 11, 15, 13, and nine games respectively in his first four years in the league due to injury or players ahead of him on the depth chart, Edelman’s record-breaking day did have some special meaning to him.
|Wes Welker: ‘I have been around long enough to know a tough guy when I see one’||01.18.13 at 9:42 am ET|
FOXBORO — Wes Welker isn’t about to be intimidated – on Sunday’s stage or any stage for that matter.
Goodness knows, people have tried.
There was the Ryan Clark hit in the Steelers game at Gillette in 2008. There have been numerous attempts by the Jets and Dolphins over the last five seasons. There was a big hit delivered by Texans safety Glover Quin in the second quarter of last week’s game at Gillette Stadium.
Still, no one has succeeded in keeping Welker from standing up to punishment and running routes over the middle. He even has a shiner this week thanks to the punishment from last week’s game.
But ask Welker if anyone intimidates him, and he laughs at you the same way he laughs at the defense trying to punish him.
“Intimidate me?” Welker replied Thursday when asked the question.
The reporter brought up the Clark hit from 2008.
“I don’t know. I don’t know about intimidating me or anything like that,” Welker said. “There are guys that talk trash. There are guys that try to hit you and do all these different things but I feel like I have been around long enough to know a tough guy when I see one.”
Does it fuel Welker?
“Sometimes, it just depends. Sometimes it’s dirty or in bad taste,” Welker said.
Welker stands 5-feet-9 and weighs just 190 pounds. Welker was reminded Thursday the NFL is played by enormous individuals. For those that aren’t blessed with that kind of size, what does he use to overcome that?
“I think the two key things are being tough and being smart,” Welker said. “Being able to take those hits and do all of those things and at the same time being smart and understanding what the defense is doing and being able to attack it in a certain way where you can maybe make those windows just a little bit bigger where you are not taking those hits and things like that. I would attribute it to being tough and being smart and really understanding the game.” Read the rest of this entry »
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