Friday, September 28, 2012

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: Week 4 Preview

The now 1-2-0 New England Patriots head to Orchard Park, New York, this weekend to take on the 2-1-0 Bills in an AFC East match-up.  What should you be looking for in New England's first divisional game of the season?  Take a look below for analysis of three things you should be watching for when the game kicks off at 1 pm on Sunday.

1.  Who's Brady throwing to?

Two of the top three receiving yards leaders for the Patriots last season were tight ends.  Wes Welker led the team in yards receiving with 1569, but Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez rounded out the top three with 1327 and 910 yards respectively (stats from  

And in Week 1 against the Titans, the trend of New England throwing to tight ends seemed poised to continue.  A little more than 50 percent of Brady's passing yards went to Gronkowski and Hernandez as the Patriots beat Tennessee 34-13.  

But everything changed in Week 2, probably because of an ankle injury to Hernandez.  Of the 310 yards Brady threw for after Hernandez went down, a little less than 25 percent went to tight ends (with Gronkowski picking up all 75 of the tight ends' receiving yards).  Week 3 against Baltimore saw more of the same, with just over 11 percent of Brady's passing yards going to Gronkowski, Kellen Winslow, and Michael Hoomanwanui combined.  

With Hernandez out again this week, Welker and Brandon Lloyd each going over 100 yards receiving against Baltimore, and Winslow being released yesterday afternoon, expect Brady to keep targeting his wideouts.  

2.  Can the Pats stop C.J. Spiller?

So far this season, the Patriots defense has fared well against running backs with the initials CJ, holding Tennessee's Chris Johnson to just four yards on 11 carries in Week 1.  They also kept Arizona to 102 rushing yards as a team, although Ray Rice went for 101 yards on the ground last weekend.

So how will they fare against Buffalo's C.J.?   Spiller, a third-year back out of Clemson University, has 308 yards on just 33 carries so far this season for a whopping 9.3 yards per rush (that leads the NFL by a full two yards per carry; stats from  Spiller was listed as questionable on the Buffalo injury report according to an article by's Christopher Price published at 4:09 pm this afternoon.  But Buffalo's head coach Chan Gailey was quoted by both an Associated Press article and an article by Dan Hanzus as saying that both Spiller's and Fred Jackson's odds of playing are "'legitimate.'" 

Hanzus does concede it's possible neither back will play, and also writes that it's more likely Jackson will play than Spiller.  But assuming Spiller does play, the success the Patriots have in defending C.J. will be something to watch for.

3.  How will the defensive backs play?

In the Week 1, the Patriots gave up 272 passing yards to the Titans, then held all-universe wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to just one catch for four yards in Week 2.  But Joe Flacco threw for 382 yards last week, and the defensive backs dropped three interceptions.  The Bills aren't anything special in terms of passing offense, but the defensive backs can't go missing tackles and dropping interceptions again either.  See if they can correct their mistakes, at least some of which were errors in basic football fundamentals, this week.

**Note: All statistics used in this blog came from, except where other sources are noted.

**Note 2: Aaron Hernandez is listed as being out for the week on's article "Gronk, Mankins questionable for Sunday" by Christopher Price.  I did not double-check this information prior to publishing this post at 5 pm, but it does appear, at about midnight Friday, that it is indeed accurate.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Patriots Defensive Backs: You Have the Spotlight

In the world of defensive football there are three position groups: defensive lineman, linebackers, and defensive backs.  While linebacker seems like it's probably the most popular and well-known position on defense, today I'm giving the DBs their turn in the limelight by breaking down the play of the New England Patriots cornerbacks and safeties.

Let's start with pure statistics.  The Patriots have given up 262 yards passing per game this season.  There are seven teams with worse averages.  With only 32 teams in the NFL, there really aren't a whole lot of teams that are worse at pass defense than New England.  

But you have to consider too that there's been a huge statistical improvement in New England's pass defense this season as compared to last.  In 2011, they allowed 294 yards passing per game, an average that was better than just one other team: the Green Bay Packers.  So even though they might not be having the best statistical season ever in terms of giving up passing yards, they're doing 32 yards a game better than last year, which is definitely a step in the right direction.

Then you have scoring, which is more important than yardage allowed since it is the statistic that determines whether you win or lose.  Last year the Patriots allowed a total of 26 passing touchdowns in the regular season.  Nine teams gave up more than that.  This season, New England has allowed only five passing touchdowns through the first three weeks.  

But how good they'll really be at preventing opposing squads from scoring through the air remains to be seen.  They are currently tied for 15th place in passing touchdowns allowed...with nine other teams.  With some many teams bunched so close together, we're going to have to wait a few more weeks and get bigger sample sizes to see where the Patriots really rank in preventing passing touchdowns.

One brief caveat: I understand that linebackers, and even sometimes defensive lineman, will play some role in pass defense, but I think these statistics are still a valid way of measuring defensive backs since they're involved in pass defense every single play (Yes, even the run plays.  As a defensive back, you always have to be watching for pass).

But statistics can only take you so far, so how have the Patriots corners and safeties actually been playing?  

In my opinion, they haven't been playing very well.  In watching highlights of their first three games on, it looks like they need to go back to middle or high school football and work on their fundamentals.  In the highlights I saw, there were missed tackles and NFL players who looked like they really didn't want to play with the big boys.  

Against Baltimore on Sunday night, Devin McCourty took a bad angle when trying to tackle Torrey Smith in the third quarter. Sure it's not easy to make that play, but these guys are professionals.  You have to adjust your angles when you're chasing after the player with the ball.  That's stuff I spent a long time learning, and it's also a part of the art of tackling that the Patriots defensive backs might need to go back and review this week.

Aside from the missed tackles, there were also more obvious mistakes on Sunday night.  Three missed interceptions, for instance, hurt the Pats in Baltimore.  In addition to tackling, New England should be working on ball drills.  Again, the Pats need to go back to their fundamentals.  I truly believe that defense wins championships, so if the Pats want to contend, they have to improve their D, particularly their weakest defensive unit.  They can't let opportunities like interceptions slip through their fingers, especially when they come their way three separate times.

Of course, I will admit that I couldn't replay the Pats first three games in their entirety or see plays from different angles, so there could have been plays I didn't see where the defensive backs played very well.  For instance, Tavon Wilson and O. J. Mayo combined to hit and stop Tennessee's Nate Washington from coming down with a Jake Locker pass in Week 1. 

But from what I could see, it sure looks like the Patriots defensive backs have some work to do.  They're making lots of mistakes, many of which can be prevented by simply re-learning fundamentals.  Play like that doesn't quite make it in the NFL.  

**Note: Statistics at the beginning of this post on the passing defenses of NFL teams came from, with the number of passing touchdowns the Patriots have given up this year also listed on

Monday, September 24, 2012

New England Loses in Bizarre Fashion for the Second Week in a Row

For the second week in a row, a crazy, insane game was down to a field goal for New England.  Four lead changes, 218 penalty yards, and 899 yards of offense on Sunday night came down to a field goal attempt by Baltimore’s Justin Tucker with just two seconds left on the game clock. 

For a brief moment, it looked like Tucker had missed the 27-yard chip shot that would have been the fifth lead change of the game and given Baltimore a victory.  But in a ruling that seems just as wild as the game itself had been, the kick, which appeared to have dipped over the right upright was ruled good, handing the Patriots their second loss in as many games.

The 31-30 Ravens victory was set up by two bad plays by a New England secondary that, like the rest of the Patriots defense, couldn’t seem to do its job Sunday night in Baltimore.  First, a lofty pass by Joe Flacco intended for Anquan Boldin was nearly picked off by Kyle Arrington.  Then, Devin McCourty was called for pass interference when Flacco tried to hit Jacoby Jones deep, moving the ball from the New England 34 down inside the 10 with less than a minute to play.  From there, all Baltimore had to do was run the clock down and kick the field goal.

They did both successfully, notching their first-ever regular-season victory over the Pats in the process.

The Patriots defensive backs also missed two other potential interceptions.  A Flacco pass for Torrey Smith near the end of the first quarter was almost picked by McCourty.  New England led 13-0, and Baltimore had gained just 17 yards on 7 plays, but the Ravens turned their third drive of the game into a touchdown.

Then, with just over 13 minutes remaining and New England leading 30-21, McCourty had another chance at an interception, but the ball wound up incomplete instead.  The Ravens turned the ball over on downs five plays later when Bernard Pierce was stopped for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-1.

McCourty and the other defensive backs got an assist in losing the game with a little over two minutes to play.  Just before the two-minute warning with New England leading 30-28, Tom Brady was sacked for a seven-yard loss.  Despite giving Brady plenty of time to throw the ball all night, the offensive line allowed its second sack of the game at a critical moment.  The Patriots punted back to the Ravens two plays later with two minutes to go. 

Baltimore then proceeded to go on to the game-winning drive.

The New England offense wasn’t slowed despite missing standout tight end Aaron Hernandez.  Brady found Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd all night long, with each receiver hauling in over 100 yards receiving.

Fifty-nine of Welker’s 142 yards receiving came on a single play in the first quarter, when Brady hit him on a long pass on the left side of the field.  The play set up a Gostkowski field goal that gave the Pats a 3-0 lead. 

The Patriots are now 1-2.  They’ll head to Buffalo next week to take on the 2-1 Bills in an AFC East showdown.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens: Five Things to Look For

It's the Patriots and Ravens on Sunday night in Baltimore, and with both teams currently owning a 1-1 record, there's no denying this is a big game.  It's much better to start off 2-1 than 1-2 record, since the NFL season is relatively short and there are only so many games for teams to win.  So here are five things fans should be looking out for when they tune their TVs in to NBC on Sunday night:

1.  Baltimore's Defense vs. New England's Offensive Line in Pass Protection

Baltimore is usually strong on defense.  Though they currently rank 27th in the NFL in total yards allowed per game, they rank just sixth in points allowed per game (stats from  The New England offensive line didn't do a good job protecting Tom Brady last week, and he was sacked four times.  It doesn't matter who's on defense for the Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots have to block better so Brady can have time to throw the ball.  The Patriots offense has lots of passing-game weapons, and the offensive line has to be better so New England can use those weapons.

2.  Ray Rice vs. New England's Defense

The Patriots defense has been playing well, even holding Chris Johnson to just four yards on 11 carries in week 1.  Can they do the same to Ray Rice, who has gone for more than 1000 yards rushing in each of the last three seasons (stat from and had 99 yards rushing against the Eagles last week?

3.  Stevan Ridley vs. Baltimore's Defense

What about Stevan Ridley when New England has the ball?  The offense looked like a two-pronged attack in week 1 when he went for 125 yards, but his numbers were less impressive in week 2 (18 carries for 71 yards).  As listed on, the Patriots' second-leading rusher is Danny Woodhead, who's totaled just 38 yards over the first two weeks.  Plus, if you add up all the Patriots' listed rushers on pro-football-reference, they have just 56 rushing yards combined aside from Ridley's 196.  If the Patriots want to yield a versatile team this season, Ridley has to be the one to do the work on the ground.

4.  How Will New England Compensate for the Loss of Aaron Hernandez?

No doubt Hernandez was a huge part of the Patriots' offense.  Look for the obvious targets of Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd to fill in along with the newly (re)acquired Deion Branch.  Kellen Winslow, whom the Pats also added this week, could play a role as well, but it probably won't be a big one this week since he'll likely need a little bit of time for him to get used to a brand new offense.  It's more likely Brady will look to his more familiar receivers in Branch and Gronk than it will be for him to go to Winslow right away.  I predict the Patriots will use lots of sets with three receivers and one tight end this week, since their best weapons in the passing game are likely Gronkowski, Branch, Lloyd, and Wes Welker/Julian Edelman.

5.  Where's Wes?

Pay attention to where Wes Welker is this weekend.  In other words, will he be watching from the sideline, or playing in the game?  After two weeks in which his playing time has been reduced from 2011 (statistical evidence of that reduction presented here in Whither Wes Welker? Receiver’s reduced role may lead to a new location, a article by Brian McIntyre), it seems like something must be going on with the wideout.  Of course, exactly what is wrong with Welker, we may never know.

**NOTE: Since the Giants and Panthers played last night, that means they've played one game more than every other team in the NFL.  Therefore, some of the stats that rank the Ravens and Patriots in terms of the entire NFL could be slightly misleading, since they're both behind by one in total number of games played.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Statistics Rule

Sometimes when it's late at night I like to pick up the paper and read all the stats in the back of the sports section.

I probably come off as a little bit of a nerd, so I'm sure that the people who know me aren't at all that surprised that I like stats.  

For example, last Friday night, Thomas Tyner, who plays football for Aloha High School in Oregon rushed for 644 yards and 10 touchdowns (some sources list his total yardage as 643).  That's crazy, and I'm sure anyone with an eye for sports would agree.

But it goes beyond simple stats too.  I care about things that most other people in the universe probably have no interest in whatsoever.  

For instance, there are currently 20 teams in the NFL with a record of 1-1.  Unless you're arguing that just about every team in the NFL still has a chance thus far into the young season, this statistic isn't really relevant.

But I would like to know when the last time was that this many teams were 1-1.  It seems like 20 teams at 1-1 is a lot (In fact, an article on indicates that 20 teams at 1-1 is a new record for number of 1-1 teams in the National Football League).

Again, that's not really relevant, but I wanted to know.

But I think that irrelevant stats can be a lot of fun too.  In honor of Thomas Tyner's 644-yard performance last week, here's a listing of three incredible NFL records courtesy of

3.  Six NFL kickers have gone an entire football season without missing a single field goal.  The most recent was Shayne Graham in 2010, who played a combined nine games with the Patriots and Giants and went 12-for-12 in field goals (all of which came during his time in New England).  Interestingly enough, Graham missed two extra points that year.

2.  On November 11, 1990, Derrick Thomas had seven sacks in a single game as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.  That stands as the record for most sacks in a single game in the history of the NFL.

1.  On December 10, 2009, Ben Roethlisberger lost 60 yards due to sacks in a game against the Cleveland Browns.  That's currently number one on the list of yards lost due to sacks in a single game.

Like I said, random stats can be a lot of fun.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New England Upset by Upstart Arizona

Stephen Gostkowski takes four steps back, then swings his right arm robotically to line himself up.  Then he takes two steps to his left and pauses for about four seconds, waiting for the ball to be snapped.

Zoltan Mesko catches the snap and puts the ball down, laces out and tilted slightly to the right, and Gostkowski kicks the lower half of the pigskin with the inside of his right foot, simultaneously lifting the ball with a forward and right motion of his kicking leg.

Then Gillette Stadium watched what would have been a game-winning 42-yard field goal sail wide left (way wide left) of the uprights, and the Arizona Cardinals defeated the New England Patriots 20-18.

In the coming days, some of the blame for the Patriots loss will probably focus on Stephen Gostkowski’s last-second miss.  Of course, Gostkowski, who was 6 for 6 on the season in field goal opportunities before botching the game-winner, couldn’t have missed at a worse time, since converting the kick obviously would have notched a victory for New England.

But the Patriots made one other key mistake that helped Arizona drop them to 10-1-0 in home-opening games during the Bill Belichick era.

Early in the third quarter, Arizona’s Quintin Groves came off the edge almost untouched to block a Mesko punt.  The ball bounced out-of-bounds at the New England 2-yard line, and Kevin Kolb found Andre Roberts three plays later for the go-ahead touchdown.

Without the blocked punt, New England wins 18-13.

But give Arizona’s defense credit too. Even though Tom Brady went 28 for 46 for 318 yards, the entire Patriots offense had just 100 yards rushing.   

And the Cardinals never really let New England get into a rhythm either.  They intercepted a Tom Brady pass on New England’s very first offensive play from scrimmage.  They stopped the Pats from getting in the end zone even after a Julian Edelman punt return gave New England the ball at the Arizona 46-yard line.  Even when the Patriots ran the no-huddle in the fourth quarter, a drive that started with two first downs through the air ended with a Gostkowski field goal of 53 yards.

If there’s one positive to New England’s loss, it’s the defense.  Kevin Kolb had just 140 yards passing.  The Cardinals as a team had just 33 carries and 105 yards rushing.  Linebacker Brandon Spikes forced Cardinals running back Ryan Williams to fumble with just over a minute left in the game, giving New England its chance at a last-second victory. 

In the grand scheme of things, it’s only one game.  They’ve still got a great coach, a great quarterback, and a chance to do good things this season.  Add a good defense to the mix, and this is a team that’ll be sniffing the playoffs once again come the end of the season.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Big Money Ball: Is Spending a Ton the Way to Win in MLB?

On Wednesday, USA Today ran a story stating MLB teams that are spending more this season aren't necessarily going to make the playoffs.  And in fact if the season ended right now, only one of the top five spenders in MLB (the New York Yankees) would make the playoffs, and that's with ten total playoff spots as opposed to the eight that were used from 1995 to 2011.  

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is quoted in USA Today's article as saying that, "'I think it's an aberration, I really do.  In order to win consistently, you have to have a reasonably high payroll.  You don't have to be in the (New York) Yankees' or (Boston) Red Sox's class, but I don't think you can win consistently with a real low payroll.'"

I think what Reinsdorf said about not having to be in the same (spending) league as the Yanks and BoSox is accurate.  Let's take a look at the facts.

The Yankees moved into MLB's top payroll spot in 1999 and have been there ever since.  But they've won just one World Series since beating the Mets in 2000, and if you take a look at the MLB champs over that span, the results suggest a that an enormous payroll isn't the magic formula to ultimate success.  

In 2003, the Yankees and Marlins faced off in the Fall Classic, with Florida taking the Series.  Florida's payroll that season: $48.8 million, the 25th-highest payroll in all of baseball and a little less than a third of the Yankees total salary of $152.8 million.  

Maybe the Marlins winning with such a comparatively low payroll is an aberration itself, but since the Yanks' Subway Series victory, just five teams with top ten payrolls have won the World Series, and only the 2004 Red Sox, 2007 Red Sox, and 2009 Yankees had a total salary that ranked in the top five. Plus, the average rank in salary of the World Series winners from 2001 on is 9.91.  

And spending the biggest doesn't even necessarily mean you'll make the playoffs.  Unless at least four of the top five spenders this season (Yankees, Phillies, Angels, Red Sox, and Tigers) find a way to get into the postseason, 1999 is the only year in the last 13 MLB seasons that any more than three of the top five spenders made the playoffs (all five of the top five spending teams made the postseason that year).

So it looks like the formula to winning in MLB isn't spending all you have.  Maybe it used to be.  Back in the late '90s, the big-spending Yanks won four World Series in five years, and from 1995 to 2000, the average salary rank of the World Series victors was 2.5.  But the numbers don't lie: Shelling out big bucks doesn't necessarily mean success in today's MLB.

**Note: All raw data about salaries that was used for this blog post came from USA Today's salary database.  I'm not sure exactly what point in the season the payrolls on that site are from, so salary and salary rank could be different from what I wrote in the post.  All raw data about postseason play came from  Information about who would be in the playoffs if the season ended right now was taken from

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New England Patriots: How'd They do in Week One?

In this post, I give the various units of the New England Patriots grades for their Week 1 performances against the Tennessee Titans.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady went 23 for 31 on Sunday, a completion rate of nearly 75 percent.  And not all of those eight incompletions were Brady's fault.  Wes Welker dropped an easy ball in the first quarter, and the blame for the missed deep ball to Brandon Lloyd two plays earlier can probably divided between quarterback and receiver.  Plus, as the announcers speculated Sunday, Brady's overthrow of Aaron Hernandez late in the fourth might have been a strategic move to reduce chances of a costly mistake (I'm going to go out on a limb and assume they meant an interception).  Throw in two TD passes and a goose egg under interceptions, and Brady had himself a decent day.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A-

Good day all around for the receivers.  They were targeted a total of 28 times and totaled 21 receptions (75% completion rate to them), and some of the incompletions to the receivers were on Brady (low passes or overthrows).  Brandon Lloyd and Rob Gronkowski both did a good job of keeping their feet in bounds in the second quarter, Lloyd on his semi-diving sideline grab and Gronk in the back of the end zone just before halftime.  Wes Welker's drop and Brandon Lloyd's miscue stop the group from getting an A.

Running Backs: A-

Stevan Ridley became the first 100-yard rusher for the Patriots since BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 136 yards in Week 5 last season.  It was also the first 100-yard game of Ridley's NFL career.

But the Patriots still don't get an A for rushing since they were good, but not fantastic.  Ridley made up 94 of his 125 yards on six carries that were each 14 yards or longer.  He was stopped for a loss four times, and ran for between zero and two yards six times.  So even though he gained lots of yards, there wasn't much consistency to his running.  Ridley might not be as effective against a better defense that eliminates big plays, which, in Ridley's case, means stopping his longer rushes and limiting him to far fewer yards.

Plus, the Pats couldn't get anyone besides Ridley going. Their second-leading rusher was Danny Woodhead, with six carries for 20 yards.

Offensive Line:  A-

The offensive line did a good job keeping Brady's jersey clean and paved the way for Ridley's 125 yards.  But the one time Brady was sacked, he was hit in the head, and on TV it looked like he was hit hard.  That could've been a big loss for the team if Brady got injured, and it costs the O-line an A.

Defensive Line: A

Two tackles for loss (a stat that doesn't come easily, by the way) and two sacks, including a strip-sack by Chandler Jones that netted the Pats seven points.  Part of a defense that held former NFL rushing champ Chris Johnson to just four yards on 11 carries.  Helped hold the Titans to just 20 yards rushing overall on 16 carries.  Sounds like a good day to me.

Linebackers: B+

Not quite as statistically impressive as the defensive line.  Obviously were also heavily involved in stopping the Titans' run game.  Dont'a Hightower scores a touchdown in his first NFL game by picking up a fumble and trotting in for the score, though it really could have been just about anyone on the defense that picked up the ball.

Reason for the lower grade is the passing game of the Titans.  I'll get into the specifics more in the next paragraph.

Defensive Backs: B-

The Pats let Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, a second-year NFL player making his first pro start, combine for 272 total yards of passing offense.  They can get away with that against Tennessee, but what are they going to do against Larry Fitzgerald?  And in week five, Peyton Manning comes to town.    Their performance isn't going to cut it against better teams.

They didn't play as well as the rest of the defense, so they get a B- for this week.

Special Teams: A-

Everyone showed up and did their job.  Julian Edelman got the team a few extra yards on his punt returns.  Stephen Gostowski was perfect in extra points and field goals, and also helped pin the Titans deep with good kickoffs.  Gostowski was assisted by Tennessee return men that kept taking the ball out of their own end zone and were tackled before they hit the 20 yard line.

Coaching: B+

Good idea by Belichick balancing the rushing attack with the passing game.  It worked out well to balance the offense since Ridley made it up to 100 yards.

Also good call by Belichick drafting Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower.  That paid big dividends not just with the defensive scoring play, but with Jones' making other plays defensively as well.

Why isn't Belichick's grade higher?  The defensive backs.  They were a liability last season, and it looks like they're still a liability this season.  With a whole offseason to address what might have been the team's biggest weakness last season, there was very little improvement of the defensive backs as a unit.  It all eventually comes down to the head coach, which is why Belichick gets a B+ for this week.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New England Fights off Feisty Tennessee for Week One Victory

Week one of the NFL season, and there really were a lot of pleasant surprises for the New England Patriots.  Sure just about anyone who’s ever seen a pigskin could have predicted the New England passing game would have a good day, but who would have thought it would be a 125-yard day for Stevan Ridley (the first 100-yard game of his NFL career).

And how about that “shaky” defense holding former rushing champion Chris Johnson to just four yards on 11 carries?

Though they probably could have played a little better, what with a few mistakes and a feisty Tennessee team that looked good to start the game and twice threatened to climb back into it, the Patriots did play fairly well on both sides of the ball in their 34-13 victory over the Titans.

The game began with 2nd-year starter Jake Locker leading Tennessee straight down the field on a drive that ended in a field goal and hacked 6:17 off the game clock, part of some of the play of a Titans team that looked poised to make a game of it early on.

But Brady & Co. went a quick 68 yards on their second offensive possession of the game, putting together a few big plays, including a 23-yard touchdown strike from Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez, to give the Pats a 7-3 lead they would never relinquish.

After their initial score, the Patriots got a little help from their defense and Locker’s mistakes.  A long downfield pass to the end zone that Locker intended for a not-exactly-open Nate Washington wound up in the hands of Tavon Wilson instead, ending a drive that had looked promising when Tennessee turned a third-and-six into a first-and-ten on a 19-yard strike from Locker to Jared Cook.

Then, with the score still 7-3 and the Titans pinned deep in their own end zone, Chandler Jones knocked the ball out of Locker’s hand and Dont’a Hightower ran it six yards into the end zone to put New England up 14-3.

Following a Tennessee punt, Tom Brady capped a 12-play, 5:17 drive with a 2-yard touchdown toss to Rob Gronkowski that put New England up 21-3 at the two-minute warning.

But Tennessee wasn’t quite done yet, marching 80 yards for a score on its first offensive possession of the second half to cut New England’s lead to 21-10.

Late in the third quarter, the Patriots got the ball on the Tennessee 48 after the Titans punted from their own 1 yard-line.  Stevan Ridley covered 34 of the 48 yards the Patriots needed to make the score 28-10, including a 1-yard touchdown run that ended the drive. 

The Titans made one final push on a drive that went from the late third quarter into the early fourth, cutting the lead again with a field goal that made the score 28-13.  But the ensuing drive by New England went for 12 plays, 5:02 and a field goal, making the score 31-13 with just 4:15 remaining and putting just about any chance of a Tennessee comeback out of reach.

New England definitely has some work to do if they want to make their sixth Super Bowl run of the Brady-Belichick era.  The Patriot receivers dropped a few passes that should have been caught, a handful of Brady’s passes were a little too low for their intended targets, and they let the scrappy Titans hang around a little bit longer than necessary.  But there’s no denying that this is a good Patriots team, one that might just be primed for yet another run at the NFL’s ultimate prize.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Theeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankeeeeeeeees Looooooooooooosssssssseeee!

Since I'm from Summit, New Jersey, I grew up a fan of the Giants and Yankees.  But I have to admit I'm incredibly disappointed the team hasn't been winning as of late, going 7-13 (.350 win percentage) since August 16 (stat from

I expect much better.

I've gone back and forth a little bit, but as of right now I think the Yankees' minimum standard for any season should be an appearance in the ALCS.  I truly think that if you have anything to do with the Yankees organization, even if you're just a fan like me, you need to expect the Yankees will do well.  

A photograph of the 1922 New York Yankees from Wikimedia Commons.

Think about teams like the Lakers and Patriots.  They win so much and field competitive teams so often, you just expect success each and every season.  It's the same with the New York Yankees.  For crying out loud, they're the Yankees.  They have to win.  A rock solid tradition of good players and lots and lots of W's mandate the standard of the team should be nothing less.

I'm tired of going on to the Internet every night, only to find the Yankees lost again.  Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman, and the rest of the Yankees really need to get this thing figured out.  There's at least one disgruntled fan who's getting a little bit frustrated, and thinks he deserves better.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New England Patriots: A Summary of Online Articles

Tonight's blog post will summarize articles on the New England Patriots from the Boston Herald, ESPN Boston, Comcast Sports Net New England,, and the Boston Globe.  All the articles summarized will be from the online versions of the sources, with the exception of one article from the Boston Globe.

From the Boston Globe: "Receiver Salas Hopes to Catch on Quickly" by Gary Washburn:

This news story is about Greg Salas, a receiver who is new to the New England Patriots.  He was acquired recently through a trade with the St. Louis Rams.  The article explains he fits into the team as a backup to Wes Welker.  The article also talks a little about the affects of the transition to the new team, such as his having played under current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels last season when both were with St. Louis, as well as giving lots of basic information about Salas that introduces him to the fans.

From the Boston Globe: "Source: Mike Kafka Works out for the Patriots" by Gary Dzen:

The main news this article conveys is that the New England Patriots "recently" had quarterback Mike Kafka work out for them.  The article also mentions that the Philadelphia Eagles cut Kafka last week, and gives a little bit more detail on Kafka's playing career.

From Comcast Sports Net: "PFT: Winslow to work out for Patriots" 

This report cites Pro Football Talk as having reported that tight end Kellen Winslow will work out for the New England Patriots.  It also quotes directly from Pro Football Talk a partial list of tight ends the Patriots already have: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Jake Ballard.

From Comcast Sports Net: "Patriots Bring in QB Kafka for Workout" by Tom E. Curran

In this article, Curran notes that quarterback Mike Kafka worked out for the Patriots Tuesday.  Curran also suggests that people were concerned when New England cut quarterback Brian Hoyer while paring their roster down.

From Comcast Sports Net: "Patriots Post-cut Diligence Continues with Kafka, Others" by Tom E. Curran

Curran gives a list of ten players who worked out for the Patriots on Tuesday, including Mike Kafka.  He goes on to give a few other notes on Kafka, the most important of which are that the Patriots may want to add him to the 53-man roster, but that they probably only want"an updated evaluation on Kafka in case the quarterback they selected in the third round last year -- Ryan Mallett -- doesn't work out."

Price weighs the Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones against Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul in this article.  According to an anonymous NFC scout quoted by Price, Jones is a game-changing player like Pierre-Paul.  The article also concedes, however, that Pierre-Paul has played very well during his NFL tenure, and that Jones stil hasn't played in a regular-season NFL game.

From "Belichick: 'I Guess' Waters Could Return" by DJ Bean

Bean summarizes some of Belichick's thoughts on various topics in this piece.  "'Is it possible?  I mean, I guess.  I don't know," said Belichick of the possibility Brian Waters plays for the team this year.  Also, Belichick says that, emotionally speaking, it's more difficult to cut players that were on his championship teams than it is to cut ordinary players.

From "2010 Pick Jermaine Cunningham Rounds Into Form" by Karen Guregian

The main point of this article is that New England DE Jermaine Cunningham seems to be coming into his own as an NFL player after not living up to his potential in his first two seasons in the league.  He had a very good pre-season according to the article, and his college position coach Dan McCarney suggested he had about a two-year learning curve in college before becoming a very good player, and that he could possibly have a similar curve in the NFL.

From ESPN Boston: "OL Warren Added to Practice Squad" by 
Mike Reiss

This very short article simply states that New England signed Jeremiah Warren, an offensive lineman, to their practice squad Tuesday after releasing fullback Eric Kettani from the practice squad earlier in the day.