The Haphazard Blog

Tag: 2010 season

Patriots vs. Dolphins Recap

by on Jan.02, 2011, under Football, Patriots, Sports

With the top seed wrapped up, a lot of speculation in this game was about who will play and who (and when) will they get rest. The Patriots pretty much played it like they would the third preseason game.

The Patriots defense got off to a great start with a Devin McCourty interception. Tom Brady took over and he’s playing the game shorthanded, missing Deion Branch, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. Even without them, Brady drove the ball down the field and hit Rob Gronkowski with a touchdown pass. I wondered if they were going to go after Mike Ditka’s rookie touchdown record today, but they didn’t.

It will be interesting to see how the rookie of the year voting goes. I assume the winners will be Sam Bradford (Offensive, QB, Rams) and Ndamukong Suh (Defensive, DT, Lions), but I think the Patriots should really have two of their own considered. Gronkowski has 10 touchdowns to tie for the most in the NFL by a tight end. McCourty has 7 interceptions to tie for 2nd most in the NFL (Ed Reed has 8 in only 9 games!). They have production that puts them right at the top with the league, not just rookies. Bradford is 24th in passer rating, 18th in touchdowns and 11th worst in interceptions. Suh is 11th in sacks and 8th in tackles.

Danny Woodhead ended the Patriots’ streak of no turnovers at 7 games when he fumbled the ball. He suffered a concussion on the play, so it’s hard to fault him on that. They still end the season with 10 turnovers, which sets a NFL record. Brady continued his consecutive passes with no interception streak. I think it’s a regular season type record (weird way to keep track, but I suppose it keeps things level) so it will continue next season.

Julian Edelman stepped up today playing wide receiver. I didn’t see any drops and he ended up with a couple big catches and a 94 yard punt return (new Patriots record) even after he bumped into a teammate.

The sack by Jerod Mayo looked illegal to me. Wasn’t that lunging at the quarterback’s legs? I thought they put in a rule that was supposed to prevent defenders who were on the ground from doing that. Maybe it has to be with the helmet?

Closing out the game late, Brian Hoyer threw a touchdown to a diving Brandon Tate. It looked like a pass/play that Brady had tried to hit a couple times this year but was usually just a bit off. They were also able to make sure BenJarvus Green-Ellis got over 1,000 yards rushing for the season (the whole team seemed pretty ecstatic about it.

Now the Patriots wait to see who they play. The Chiefs lost, so for now, the possibilities are the Chiefs, Ravens, Jets, Colts or Jaguars. Two of them will be out once the late afternoon games end.

Update: The Patriots will play one of these three teams:


The opponent will be the first team remaining on that list after the wild card weekend playoff games..

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Patriots vs. Bills Recap

by on Dec.26, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

This was a game where it looked like it was over pretty early, the only question was “How much would the Patriots win by?”. I think the prognosticators were shaken by the close game Green Bay had. I think that’s a case of them discounting how good the Green Bay defense played (and is). There isn’t a whole lot to say about this game, but here are my thoughts.

The front 7 is down to the last bit of their depth, mostly due to injuries and a suspension for Brandon Spikes. With that, the Bills were running wild on the defense and inexplicably started to pass in red zone. Killed their momentum and they were forced to settle for a field goal and let Bill Belichick make adjustments for the next series.

I’ve noticed that as much praise Devin McCourty gets, teams are not afraid of him. They attack him and are able to complete passes against him. I think who should get some consideration/recognition for defensive rookie of the year, but Ndamukong Suh has been a beast and quarterbacks must be scared of him.

Rob Gronkowski seemed to have a possible touch down, but the ball was under thrown by Tom Brady. It would’ve been a great way to open the game with a 77 yard touch down on their first play. On the day, Brady had 3 touch downs, 2 to Gronkowski, and set a new bar for most consecutive passes without an interception. CBS was showing the graphic comparing him to Bernie Kosar and Bart Starr. They included the number of touch downs over that span and Brady was way ahead. I wonder if that’s a record for most consecutive touch downs without an interception. People are pretty quick top point put that there have been some lucky drops during this streak, but I doubt any of them have reviewed all the passes that Kosar and Starr threw. Obviously there is a luck component to a streak like that.

Gronkowski pulled in a great catch running down the seam on a safety. He has the safety trailing him and reached back with one hand to pull the ball in for a big gain on 3rd down. The Patriots played well without Aaron Hernandez this week. (I wonder if Hernandez was injured while high stepping (I think that’s what it was) into the end zone against the Packers?).

Wes Welker had a tough drive (2 drops) and overall a tough game (he added another drop). You could see he was not pleased with himself.

The defense continued to do what it has done all year. They forced turnovers (6!) and hit hard. It was an impressive job by them and now they can rest players as needed with nothing to play for next week. They have locked up the AFC East, #1 seed (home field throughout the playoffs) and the best AFC record. As an added bonus, the Raiders were knocked out of playoff contention which guarantees the Patriots a top 20 pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Update: Saw a couple interesting Patriots tidbits.

Brady has thrown a touch down in each game this season. If he throws one next week he will be the fifth quarterback to do it since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. I was surprised by this for 2 reasons. First, just how rare it is and second, that Brady didn’t do this in 2007. I checked, and the Jets shut him out in week 15.

The Patriots have gone 7 games without a turnover, which extends their own record. The old record was 4 games.

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Patriots vs. Packers Recap

by on Dec.23, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

This game ended up being a lot closer than people expected, especially with Matt Flynn filling in for Aaron Rodgers. The main thing I take away from this game is as the offense goes, the defense goes. The better the offense plays, the better the defense plays.

I felt like on the opening onside kick, James Sanders had a shot at just knocking the ball out of bounds instead of trying to get on top of it. It was probably the last thing on his mind, but that could’ve preserved possession.

Tom Brady’s record no interception streak continued with another fortuitous drop by the opponent. This time, a great play by Charles Woodson to drop off his guy and double Rob Gronkowski. The ball hit Woodson in the hands and he just dropped it. I was surprised to find out that the Patriots had an NFL record with 5 straight games (now 6) without a turnover. On the surface, that number doesn’t seem that high, so it demonstrates just how difficult it is to avoid interceptions and fumbles game to game.

Deion Branch and Wes Welker didn’t have big games catching, but at least on the 33 yard touchdown run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis they had the key blocks that created the lane and allowed him to get to the end zone.

Once again, Brandon Meriweather took a bad angle. This time he added a whole new level of ineptitude by tackling his teammate to prevent him from tackling the receiver for a 20-25 yard gain. Instead it becomes a 66 yard touchdown making a 10-7 lead 17-7. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Meriweather will not be re-signed. I could even see him getting traded next year.

The Packers defense has really made life difficult for the Patriots. They are getting pressure and sacks on Brady. They are stopping the 1st down runs exceptionally well putting them in 2nd and long. Short throws to Branch and Welker are not easy. The Packers defense is every bit as good as advertised. The way the Patriots have shredded the top defenses this year makes the performance even better. I’d say looking back on the season so far, the Chargers and Ravens are going to pose the most difficulty in the AFC and if the Patriots were to get to the Super Bowl, the Packers have shown they can play them tough as well.

The Connolly kick return easily elicited the biggest “oh my god, I can’t believe I just saw that” moment of the season. He was protecting that ball and ready to be taken down when there was an opening for him to run the ball some more. He threw a stiff arm and made a cut back to get all the way down to the 4 yard line. It was too bad he didn’t score, but it was amazing. I’ve also noticed Connolly returns kicks better than Alge Crumpler this year. Crumpler doesn’t even look as “graceful” doing it.

Kyle Arrignton broke 4 tackles on his interception return for a touchdown. I think it was a big play by him. The Packers defense could’ve easily held the Patriots to a field goal (they didn’t have the easiest of times scoring from 4 yards out) which ended up being the difference in points (ignoring the butterfly effect of course).

The final drive was filled with nail biting. Tully Banta-Cain continued his knack for untimely penalties (although the other guy also had his hands in Banta-Cain’s face). The Patriots had a game sealing interception on that play. The biggest play of the game was Patrick Chung tackling Donald Driver 1 yard short of a 1st down on 3rd and 11 in bounds. It kept the clock running and the Packers had no time outs. They also couldn’t spike the ball to stop the clock. As a result, they took so long getting the play off that it was their last chance and they had to get a touchdown. Banta-Cain caused a fumble to end it.

Another take away from this is the situation. The Packers got the ball back with 4:22 left at their own 43, 2 timeouts and the two minute warning down by 4 points. So they essentially had 4+ minutes and 3 timeouts to move the ball 57 yards. If they score, the Patriots would need at least a field goal to force overtime. The Patriots had all 3 timeouts and Bill Belichick chose not to use any. Either the defense was going to stop them from scoring or they were going to (most likely) lose the game. I think that says a lot about how much Belichick trusts his defense. He did not decide that the offense was the way they were going to win that game (like 4th and 2 at Indy).  It looks like they are coming along.

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Patriots vs. Bears Recap

by on Dec.12, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

There isn’t too much to say about this game. Seemed like a pretty even (their play through the game, not the opponent) and ho-hum kind of game for the Patriots.

They started right off passing in the snow and wind, then the toss sweep run killed by the Bears’ defensive speed. Why didn’t they stick with 5 wide for the first series?

It was pretty evident that they were working very hard to avoid strips/fumbles by a very aggressive Bears defense.

Devin McCourty’s foot prevents a fumble from being overturned. It reminds me of 2001 when David Patten retained possession of the ball because when he was knocked unconscious, his head was out of bounds while he was touching the ball. Just weird things going your way.

I’d say I have two concerns coming out of this game. As affective as they were getting touchdowns to start, they had a lot more ineffective red zone trips. The Bears seemed to have tightened up their red zone defense as the Patriots wasted a punt return and strip sack that put them deep in Bears territory. Hopefully it is just a small blip on the radar. The other concern would be McCourty. I didn’t know at the time (I wondered where he was), but he left the game with a “rib” injury.  Hopefully that is nothing serious.

Have you ever noticed when a guy has a bad play, they clap their hands? I wonder why they do that. It seems like a reflex.

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Patriots vs. Jets Recap

by on Dec.12, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

I don’t think anyone expected the outcome of this game to be this lop-sided, but it was fun to watch to the very last snap. Looking back, I was definitely not a believer as I watched, just waiting for the other shoe to drop and the Jets to get back in the game.

I was shocked that Cris Carter (trashed Deion Branch on Boston radio leading up to the game) and Tom Jackson picked the Jets to win the game.

On the opening drive they had a weird blown play, but they could’ve recovered. Branch has to catch that and it was an early TD opportunity missed. A running theme in this recap will be how pointless all these things ended up being.

What was Rex Ryan thinking? He was mad about the spot, but did he really think that the officials were 1 yard off? Pointless challenge. Baby LT had his long run and obligatory over-celebration. Remember when a 14-yd run wasn’t a big deal to him? They ended up missing a long field goal and on their next drive they had a nice bad drive and horrible punt. Just what the Patriots needed after Brady looked a little off on the first 2 drives. They quickly go up 17-0 scoring a TD on a quick slant on 4th and 3.

I kept asking myself, “Where is Patrick Chung?”. I really think he brings a physical element to the game and is playing hard. I guess it’s a good problem to have where he is the third safety, but I don’t think anyone else hits as hard as him. Plus he has good instincts and is fast.

One weird thing was seeing Donald Trump in Robert Kraft’s box. Why would he let Trump in his box. Isn’t he a NY/Jets fan? He’s at least a New Yorker.

On the Patriots last drive of the 1st half, Brady was sacked twice. Hopefully that would not be a precursor to what would happen in the 2nd half. Heading into halftime, I’m wondering where this defense came from. I’d put part of it on Mark Sanchez, but the defense has had their best game so far. I’d feel good with 2 more TDs in the 2nd half.

The Jets started the 2nd half moving the ball, but it was fitting on Tedy Bruschi night that Brandon Spikes gets a Bruschi-like interception in the red zone to kill the drive. Followed right up with a Devin McCourty interception on the Jets’ next drive. McCourty is really coming on as the season is progressing. You really don’t see him repeating mistakes. Him and Joe Haden have been playing like 1st rounders (unlike Kyle Wilson). It looks like Ryan is getting the FU special from Bill Belichick.

All Brandon Tate had to do was block the guy behind him and Danny Woodhead runs it in for a 62 yard touchdown. They score a couple plays later and that is pretty much it. With about 10 minutes left, the Jets gave up. They just kept running the ball and took all day to run plays. They either wanted to minimize further embarrassment overall or not totally ruin Sanchez’s confidence. They’d add further insult by getting a 12 men on the field penalty after coming up with a 3rd down stop.

J-E-T-S! Suck! Suck! Suck! and Overrated chants were very audible during the broadcast. Also, credit to the Gillette crowd for keeping it loud all night. It is clearly possible to be loud, so there should be no excuses for the quiet crowds.

Some respect to Ryan for not trying to get late meaningless TD. A lot of coaches would keep trying to get a TD. Of course, after the game during his press conference he didn’t sound like he was humbled at all. Makes beating them so much fun.

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Stretch Run Patriots Update

by on Dec.05, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

I haven’t recapped the last 2 games so I thought I’d write up some thoughts on those games and some other Patriots related things heading into the big game tomorrow night. That game could very well determine which team gets a playoff bye and which one will be on the road.

Once again, the Patriots-Colts game started late. There was 13:06 left in the 1st quarter when it finally switched. The NFL also moved the Patriots-Bears game to 4:15 next week. Initially, I thought woe is me, but luckily the Chiefs also play the late game on CBS so my game will be on NFL Sunday Ticket.

Some quick thoughts on the Colts game. Wes Welker on a linebacker = bad idea, he easily juked him for a TD. Once again, the Patriots start out well and build a lead only to collapse at the end. Only difference this time is Peyton Manning is struggling of late with his new receivers. (On a side note, does this add another point for Tom Brady in the Brady-Manning debate? Brady was so close to another Super Bowl in 2006 with Reche Caldwell as his #1 receiver. Manning still has Reggie Wayne and is still playing badly.) They really gave the Colts hope by not scoring that final touchdown and settling for a field goal. Kyle Arrington playing defensive end? Is Bill Belichick announcing he has given up on OLBs creating any pressure at this point. Arrington has give up over 100 pounds to every offensive lineman. The Patriots so badly need a OLB pass rusher. It isn’t just the Colts who can make comebacks against the Patriots. They are really struggling (detailed here). I suppose it makes sense given how bad their pass defense is and that’s all a team does when down big. I wonder why no team has decided, they can’t rush us, let’s pass all day. Patrick Chung doesn’t make a really effective slot corner. How bad is Darius Butler he can’t play the slot either? James Sanders once again came up big to save a win.

Finishing up with some quick thoughts on the Lions game. It was a game on a very short week. Late game Sunday, travel on Wednesday to play the early Thanksgiving game. They started out slow with Brady taking a lot of hits and getting sacked. The Lions were up 17-3 at one point and it was looking like a long day at times. Perhaps another bad loss like the Browns game. The main positive was they weren’t turning it over. They seemed to figure out the pass protection problems and before you knew it, they were scoring 4 TDs to really put a stamp of authority on the game. Alphonso Smith was abused all day–run over by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, run in circles all day by Deion Branch. Smith had 3 missed tackles on 1 play. I wonder what has caused the emergence of Rob Gronkowski and the disappearance of Aaron Hernandez. What will happen when they are both playing so well and are on the field together? Devin McCourty has been playing real well these last couple of weeks. He could get into the defensive rookie of the year conversation if he continues to play this way.

Tomorrow it’s the Jets again. The Jets say they are built to beat the Patriots, but I think that was the season opening Patriots. (And really, they stumbled on it because they wanted Darelle Revis to cover Randy Moss when Antonio Cromartie was the better match-up.) But I think the Patriots are built to beat the Jets now. There is no elite WR, just quick small guys. They will be wasting Revis on covering one WR while the other will play against a guy who isn’t as quick on the other side. Brady is playing a lot smarter football now and I’d really be surprised to see them lose this game. The Patriots say football starts on Thanksgiving and the Patriots have a tough road to finish the season. The Jets (9-2), Bears (9-3), Packers (8-4) and 2 more division games. It’ll be a good test to close out the season. Also, if they do get the inside track to win the division, they have to keep winning to ensure they get the top seed.

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Patriots vs. Steelers Recap

by on Nov.17, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

What a difference  week makes!

The Patriots won their second coin toss of the year and chose to defer (I think this is a good strategy on the road since seats tend to be most empty at the start of the second half) and forced a 3 and out. Tom Brady went straight to Rob Gronkowski. It’s interesting how teams do this after a guy has a bad play and/or game. They’re professionals, but it seems like it makes a difference to confidence. I think this was the best opening drive of the season for the Patriots. They seem to start out slow this year, but this time, Gronkowski ended the drive with a touch down. People were very impressed with the pass Brady threw. At first I thought he made the pass tighter than it had to be, but seeing a replay of it today, I think it was either there or nowhere.

On the Steeler’s second drive, we saw a running theme appear. Zone defense and an easy 3rd down conversion.  I think the zone defense is preventing big passing plays, but the players don’t quite have the instincts to make sure guys don’t easily find voids in the zones. It’s a good thing they’re good tacklers, well for the most part. Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders sometimes take some bad angles. Following this play, they played very well in coverage after the play broke down. They stuck to the receivers as they scrambled and kept Ben Roethlisberger in pocket getting 2 sacks in a row.

I thought it was odd that there were points (and even series) during the game where is Vince Wilfork wasn’t on the field. I wondered if he was injured and then he would be back. Not sure why he didn’t play as much considering he is the best defensive lineman they have. On the flip side, the defense played awesome for 3 quarters.

I think if  Brady leads Brandon Tate a little more on that deep pass, it’s a touchdown. Mike Rodak felt it was an accurate pass, but Tate had beat his guy and had to slow up in the end zone to catch the pass and the corner back was able to knock it away.

Brady was pissed at the end of a bad series. I thought they needed a lip reader and WEEI agreed. They didn’t really turn up much and Brady danced around it.

I don’t know why they Patriots are going for big hits instead of tackles at times. Bill Belichick should fine guys who go for the big hit and the opposing player gets away. Earlier in the game, Patrick Chung showed how to make a big hit and tackle by nearly stopping a first down.

Branch looks a lot healthier in this game. He looked really bad against the Vikings and still kind of slow against the Browns. Hopefully he’s back to 100% and will stay that way.

Coming out to start the 3rd quarter, the Patriots had another good drive. The defense continued their stellar performance forcing a 3 and out and later getting another red zone stand. The only bad play I saw was the pass interference by Meriweather. I don’t think he is fast enough for the deep safety. He seems to be about one step late on a lot of deep throws. This time it cost him a lot of yards as he tried to go through a receiver for an interception. If he was faster, he could’ve beat him to the spot, but since he isn’t, he should’ve been smart enough to break up the catch instead.

Brady put together another good drive as the end of the 3rd quarter approached to put them up 23-3.  He sneaked the ball in to score and Troy Polamalu (who was either invisible or guessing wrong all day) added some “extra sugar” as Matt Light called it with a hit to Brady after he scored. Brady got up and spiked the ball as hard as he could and stared down the fans. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him this fired up. Somehow the new kicker missed the extra point. The long snapper and kicker are new, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Better now that a real close game.

I think at this point, the Patriots let off on defense. Whatever they did, it wasn’t working. The Steelers moved the ball very quickly down the field to score a touch down. Fortunately a quick pick 6 and they opened the lead up again. I don’t know what they were thinking doing the stupid group celebration. It’s been banned since the Rams did the bob and weave. Who even thinks up or plans a group celebration?

One of my favorite plays of the game was Wilfork knocking down Emmanuel Sanders as he ran across the field. It shouldn’t have been a penalty since it was within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. I thought it was a smart, heads up play by him.

In the end, the Patriots were able to win, but the Steelers scored 23 points in 15 minutes. That is very bad when you have Peyton Manning coming to town this week. Hopefully it becomes a lesson to play a full 60 minutes against the Colts.  It was a nice bounce back game from Gronkowski.

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