Tag Archives: C.J. Spiller

The New ‘A-Team’ Large In Patriots’ Opening Day Win

Kyle Arrington came up large for the Patriots on Sunday.

Kyle Arrington came up large for the Patriots on Sunday.

With all the talent that the Patriots have on both sides of the ball, certain games will inevitably come down to the same guys making key plays at opportune times. In Sunday’s Opening Day win over the Bills, however, it was a couple of the bottom two guys you might expect, but ones near the top of the roster, who were key assets in helping the team pull out the two-point win.

Everyone will remember Tom Brady going 6-for-6 on the eventual game-winning drive and steer his pre-halftime interception that cost the team seven points to the back of their minds. Many of us will also point to the reliability of Stephen Gostkowski as a big factor in the win since after all, he went 3-for-3 and was right down the middle on the game-winner with five seconds left. Finally, the productiveness and toughness of newcomer, Danny Amendola, was sure to have stood out in the minds of some, but in my opinion, that is what he was brought here to do – to be that No. 1 receiver and spend a good deal of time in the spotlight.

Two of the more impressive guys on Opening Day, however, arguably were Kyle Arrington and rookie punter, Ryan Allen. In case you forgot, two of the most critical factors in the outcome of an NFL game are turnovers and field position. These two were at the center of both these departments for the Patriots on Sunday.

Let’s start with Arrington. Yes, he was beaten on Steve Johnson‘s third-quarter touchdown reception that gave the Bills the lead for a while, but he could have gotten a little bit better safety help on the play. Other than that, he was all over the place – especially compared to what we are used to seeing from him as a nickel corner.

He forced both Bills’ fumbles, the first of which was a result of good form tackling the bigger C.J. Spiller and punching the ball out at the same time. Giving the Pats starting field position at the 16-yard line of Buffalo all but guaranteed a score for the Brady-led offense. Arrington also made five tackles on the day, including four solo and one for a loss. He then forced another fumble late in the first half that led to Brady’s second touchdown pass and Julian Edelman‘s second touchdown catch as he finished the day with more tackles than Dont’a Hightower, Aqib Talib, Brandon Spikes and Devin McCourty, while not being used as an every-down player.

Aside from getting beat on the Johnson touchdown, Arrington also had a solid day in coverage while he was on the field. He picked up his first pass deflection of the season and played a role in no Bills’ receiver having more than 41 receiving yards on the day. Also, E.J. Manuel was able to throw for just six passing first downs due to the tight coverage across the board. Fred Jackson, their leading receiver and a running back, would have been the responsibility of a linebacker most times, anyway.

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Patriots Squeak By Bills In Season Opener

Julian Edelman spikes the ball after the first of his two touchdown catches in Sunday's two-point season-opening win against the Bills.

Julian Edelman spikes the ball after the first of his two touchdown catches in Sunday’s two-point season-opening win against the Bills.

In an opening game that looked like just that for both the Patriots and Bills, New England was able to come out on top with a late field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. Trailing 21-20 with under five minutes remaining, Tom Brady drove the Pats down the field to set up the eighth-year kicker in the middle and he went right down the middle with five seconds to go to give the Patriots the come-from-behind victory, 23-21.

Despite three turnovers that led to 14 Buffalo points, the Pats won their 10th straight Opening Day game. It was the home team, with two turnovers of their own, that gave the game away. The Bills were unable to take advantage of the New England turnovers and committed some costly ones of their own, but it was their 10 penalties for 75 yards, including four for 35 in the first quarter when New England got out to a 10-0 lead, that did them in.

“Obviously, it wasn’t perfect. And there’s a lot of things we can do better. But they played the last few minutes of the game the way we needed to play it,” said Bill Belichick after the game. The coach also said he was proud of his team for pulling out the victory, particularly for how they fought to take it in the final minutes.

The Bills got the miscues started as Kyle Arrington stripped C.J. Spiller deep in the Buffalo end and Tommy Kelly pounced on the loose ball at the 16-yard line. Two plays later, on third and three, Brady found Julian Edelman in the back of the endzone with an absolute laser. Edelman got both of his feet down and the Pats had their first points of the 2013 season with 10:46 remaining in the opening quarter.

Buffalo was forced to punt on their ensuing drive and a facemask penalty from Arthur Moats on the play set New England up at midfield. Gostkowski hit his first attempt of the season from 48 yards out nine plays later to give the Pats a 10-0 lead. The first quarter ended with Buffalo trying to get out of its own way and them trailing New England in time of possession, 9:51-5:09. Also, the Brady and Danny Amendola connection began taking flight.

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NFL Kickoff Weekend: Patriots @ Bills

It's the start of a new era for Brady with no Welker, Hernandez and a limited Gronk. How will he perform in Week One? Just fine.

It’s the start of a new era for Brady with no Welker, Hernandez and a limited Gronk. How will he perform in Week One? Just fine.

Year after year New England takes on their central New York division rivals, Buffalo, at the beginning and end of each season. In 2013, the Patriots will travel to Ralph Wilson Stadium for a 1:00 CBS showdown in Week One. Since 2001, the Bills own a 2-22 record against the Patriots. Although the most recent match-ups have provided an actual sense of entertainment, it’s no secret New England is the favorite (-9.5), even on the road, with a banged up rookie QB E.J. Manuel at the helm.

Drafted ninth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, RB C.J. Spiller broke out last year with 1,244 rushing yards, 6 rushing TD, 459 receiving yards and 2 receiving TD filling in for the hobbled Fred Jackson. Limiting #21 is a priority on Sunday afternoon, it is imperative to remove their dynamic playmaker from open space. Given their shaky quarterback situation, a heavy dose of Spiller is exactly what the doctor will prescribe in a few days. Take a look at three other keys to victory for the Patriots this weekend:

1) Disrupt E.J. Manual: Although Jermaine Cunningham has been in Belichick’s doghouse for a couple years now, it was still somewhat surprising to see the former 2nd round pick, as well as Justin Francis released this past week. Adding seasoned big boy veteran Tommy Kelly next to Vince Wilfork is an intimidating presence up front. Throw in the promising Chandler Jones, the ever-consistent Rob Ninkovich, a few hybrids and this defensive unit is poised to cause a similar ruckus to last season’s turnover forcing machine.

Although New England struggles here and there against mobile quarterbacks, the Patriots’ success is contingent on containing Manuel in the pocket. Setting the edge and making him beat the defensive backs with his arm and reads is the goal for Sunday. Belichick usually has his way with inexperienced shot-callers, expect a few QB hurries that end up in wobbly gifts to the defense. It is E.J. Manuel’s first NFL start and while that may provide low expectations form the media, do not be fooled by his talent. He shined in the preseason and has the intangibles to lead any team to victory. If New England can make E.J. play catch up by going ahead early, the Bills are in serious trouble.

2) Protect Tom Brady:  The pathetic four turnover first quarter preseason performance against Detroit exposed a glaring weakness in the Patriot’s front line. TB12 was forced to make quick decisions as defensive tackles and ends floated through the flood gates early and often. New England makes Sportscenter highlights when Tommy Boy is standing tall in the pocket and delivering his fastballs with time to spare. The young core of receivers do not have the chemistry with Brady to break off hot routes just yet and need those few extra seconds to execute plays.

Keeping Blount on the roster over Washington puts extra emphasis on establishing a balanced offensive attack in 2013-2014. We saw multiple drives this preseason where the majority of play calls looked like a smash-mouth football approach. Combining that with a no-huddle keeps the defense on their heels. None of this can be achieved without the five hogs up front paving the way for a fluid play-calling scheme.

3) Protect the Football: If the above segment wasn’t enough emphasis, I’d like to reitirate the obvious – wins and losses come down to turnover ratios. The Patriots lead the NFL in turnover ratio last year with a ridiculous +25 figure. This key to victory is contingent on the offensive line’s ability to protect TB12; however, ball security has been an issue this preseason. We’ve seen Zach Sudfeld, Shane Vereen and others cough up the rock at untimely moments. It’s been a few years since kung-fu grip RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis was on the squad and even thousand yard rusher Ridley had some issues last year.

These keys to victory are not the only equation to earning win one on Sunday afternoon. Will the young and promising receiver corps live up to their preseason hype? Will the defensive backs be able to muster up another overachieving season? Will our defensive line stay healthy and disrupt quarterbacks all around the league?

There are many questions marks for all teams entering Week One but I see the Patriots handling the Bills with ease, 35-17 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. What do you think?

Patriots 2012 Regular Season By The Numbers

On the surface, it is easy for any fan to see just how good or bad of a season their team has had. Whether it be wins and losses or total points put up, some stats tell the story, god or bad, of the year of their favorite team.

What most fans fail to sometimes realize, however, is all the stats that go into making an NFL team successful. Here are a bunch you would never even think to remotely consider about the 2012 season of the New England Patriots.

You name it. If it can be statistically tracked in the NFL, it’s probably in this post.

0 – The number of wins the team had when their leading rusher was under 40 yards for the game (0-2).

0 – The Patriots had no two-point conversions on the year. Just kind of odd.

0.5 – Brandon Bolden averaged half a yard more per carry than Stevan Ridley did.

1 – The number of franchises to score 500 points four different times. New England accomplished that this year after 500-point seasons in 2007, 2010 and 2011 as well.

1 – The New England offense ranked first in the NFL in total yards, yards per game, points and points per game in 2012.

1 – Of the four members of the team who finished the year as the starting secondary, only one (Devin McCourty) was on the team last year. Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib, Steve Gregory were the other three.

1 – Vince Wilfork‘s four forced fumbles were tied for first in the NFL.

1 – The number of full games that tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were both on the field for the whole contest – the season finale against the Dolphins.

1 – The number of NFL quarterbacks to throw at least one touchdown pass in all 16 regular season games for three straight seasons – Tom Brady in 2010-12.

2 – The number of teams to ever win 10-plus games in 10 consecutive seasons – the Patriots became the second to accomplish that this year.

2 – Their two-game losing streak in Weeks 2 and 3 was tied for their longest losing streak since they lost four straight in the 2002 season.

2 – This season was the second time they have gone undefeated against the AFC East, joining the 2007 team.

2 – The number of teams to ever record 400 first downs in a season – the 2012 Pats and the 2011 Saints.

2 – The number of points that Stephen Gostkowski needed to tie the all-time single-season Patriots scoring record set by Gino Cappelletti in 1964.

3 – Pass plays in the NFL this season longer than Shane Vereen‘s 83-yard reception in Week 12.

3 – It had been three years since the Patriots lost four or more games in a season (10-6 in 2009).

3 – The Pats have scored 500-plus points in three consecutive seasons.

The Patriots' offense has been unstoppable in the three years since drafting this duo.

The Patriots’ offense has been nearly unstoppable in the three years since drafting this duo.

4 – New England had four different players lead the team in receiving in their 16 games – Brandon Lloyd (3), Wes Welker (9), Gronkowski (3) and Vereen (1).

4 – It was Brady’s fourth career season of throwing 30 or more touchdown passes, good for a tie for the fourth-most all-time.

4 – Welker finished four receptions behind league-leader Calvin Johnson, who had 122 on the year.

4 – The Patriots have made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.

4 – The team had four different players lead them in rushing in their 16 games – Ridley (13), Bolden (1), Julian Edelman (1) and Danny Woodhead (1).

5 – There have only been five Patriots running backs to rush for 1,200 yards in the team’s history. Ridley became the fifth this year.

5 – Wilfork was elected to the fifth Pro Bowl of his career and will start on the defensive line for the AFC.

5 – The team has held its opponents to 20 points or less in five of six games since Nov. 18 (5-1).

6 – In 16 games, the Patriots only lost six fumbles.

6 – The Pats finished six spots higher in total defense this year compared to last season when they finished 31st in the league.

6 – New England has been a top-10 offense in the NFL for six straight seasons.

7 – The amount of consecutive games that Brady needs to throw a touchdown pass in to break the all-time record of 54.

7 – New England’s longest winning streak of the year from Week 7 through Week 14.

7 – The number of points that Brady’s total QBR trailed Peyton Manning‘s for tops in the league.

7 – McCourty was one of seven NFL players to return a kickoff more than 100 yards on the year.

7 – The team sent seven members to the Pro Bowl in 2012.

New England's seven Pro Bowlers in 2012 are the third-most in the league.

New England’s seven Pro Bowlers in 2012 are the third-most in the league.

7 – Last year’s NFL leader in interceptions, Kyle Arrington, had seven fewer interceptions in 2012 than a year ago. He had seven in 2011.

8 – The number of years it had been since the team had a 1,200-yard rusher before this year. Corey Dillon rushed for 1,635 yards in 2004.

8 – Rob Ninkovich led the team with eight sacks on the year.

8 – The Pats had eight return TD’s on the season.

9 – The number of games in which the starting offensive line of Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly and Logan Mankins were all on the field together.

9 – Brady now ranks ninth on the NFL’s all-time passing list with 44,806 yards. He needs 1,427 yards to pass Vinny Testaverde.

9 – Ridley finished the season as one of just nine non-kickers in the top-40 in the league in scoring.

9 – The team has a nine-game division win streak heading into next season.

10 – The number of consecutive 10-win seasons for the Patriots – the second longest such streak ever (16).

10 – The team scored 30-plus points 10 times in their 16 games in 2012 (8-2).

10 – The number of players who had a rushing attempt for the Pats in 2012 led by Ridley’s 290 carries.

10 – New England had 10 more sacks than it allowed in 2012.

11 – They also had 11 more interceptions than their opponents did.

11 – The combined number of points New England fell by in its four losses against the Cardinals (2), Ravens (1), Seahawks (1) and 49ers (7).

11 – The number of current and former Pro Bowl running backs that Ridley out-rushed in 2012.

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Late McCourty Interception Gets Patriots By Bills


The Patriots treated service men and women both still in New England and abroad to a Veterans Day win on Sunday as they found a way to hold on and beat the Bills 37-31 in a shootout at home with the help of a couple of crucial Buffalo turnovers and 14 penalties.

The Bills had a chance to win it as they got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining, trailing by six following Stephen Gostkowski‘s third field goal of the day, but Ryan Fitzpatrick was picked off by Devin McCourty in the endzone with less than 30 seconds left – the Bills’ second red zone turnover of the day. Somehow McCourty ended up being huge for the Patriots in this win, something that will need to continue down the stretch if the Patriots want to make a deep playoff run. He figured in both Buffalo red zone turnovers in the 2nd half, which were clearly monumental in securing the win for the Pats.

In an ugly game that featured virtually no defense and its fair share of drops, the team that had the ball last surprisingly didn’t win. The Bills were called for 14 penalties – 6 of which came in the 1st quarter alone. After a 3rd & 1 on their opening drive, Buffalo was guilty of three straight penalties and conceded possession with a draw on 3rd & 21 that put them out of scoring range.

New England got the scoring started with the first of three Gostkowski field goals on their opening drive. Gostkowski connected from 43 yards out to put the home team on top 3-0 with six minutes left in the 1st quarter. The Pats were forced to settle for the field goal, however, after Wes Welker dropped a slightly high pass from Tom Brady with nothing but the goal post in front of him.

The Pats were also aided by two dropped interceptions resulting from tipped passes at the line of scrimmage. Deion Branch caught two balls on the drive, equaling his most productive game reception wise all season. Branch would finish with four catches on the day for 30 yards – the most catches he’s had for the Patriots this year.

On the ensuing Buffalo drive, Vince Wilfork sacked Fitzpatrick for his first sack of the year believe it or not and forced a fumble to be recovered by Jermaine Cunningham at the Bills’ 13-yard line. Three plays later, Stevan Ridley punched it in from a yard out to make the score 10-0 Patriots. Ridley finished with 98 yards on 22 carries and had 100 until a loss of two in the 4th quarter set him back below the century mark. The Pats were aided by two pass interference calls on the Bills in the endzone on the very quick drive.

After one, the Patriots led 10-0, the Bills had committed six penalties for 40 yards and turned the ball over leading to a New England touchdown. But, as we have seen in the last three meetings between these two teams, an early lead is never safe.

The Bills would kick a field goal to cut the lead to seven and then Brady led the Patriots on a methodical drive using the no-huddle to perfection and Danny Woodhead ran the ball in untouched from 15 yards out to put New England on top by 14 and their largest margin of the day at 17-3. Woodhead was responsible for the final three plays on the drive as Brady fed the ball to the hot hand. Both Welker and Rob Gronkowski came up big on the drive as Brady floated a perfect pass to Gronk right down the middle of the field to gain 24 yards on 1st down.

Feeling a bit of urgency, the Bills quickly answered the latest Patriots’ score with one of their own. Fred Jackson ran through about seven Patriots tacklers on his way to the endzone from 14 yards out to bring it back within seven. Fitzpatrick was perfect on the drive, completing all three of his passes and bringing his total to seven straight completions. A 12-yard C.J. Spiller burst on the previous play set up Jackson, who made McCourty’s tackling attempt look like that of a pee wee player.

Like they so often do, the Patriots came right back and Brady connected with a diving Gronkowski in the corner of the endzone to make it 24-10. Gronk now has five touchdown catches in his last three games, but chose to celebrate this one with a traditional American spike. He finished with three catches for 31 yards and the score on the day and now has at least one touchdown catch in all six career games against the Bills. The TD pass marks the 41st straight game in which Brady has recorded a touchdown throw and he remains 11 behind Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, who threw at least one touchdown in his 52nd straight game in Sunday’s upset win over the previously undefeated Falcons. The Pats were helped by 69 more Buffalo penalty yards on the drive.

Now of course that wasn’t the end of the scoring for the half in this wildly offensive game. With 31 seconds left, Fitzpatrick found Patriot killer Scott Chandler for a 3-yard score as Dont’a Hightower somehow lost the big tight end in the endzone. After a slight bobble, Chandler held on for his fifth touchdown catch of the year and third against the Patriots. It was 24-17 at the half and with the late touchdown drive by the Bills, the crowd was taken out of it for the time being.

Getting the ball first in the 2nd half, it would serve the Patriots well to come away with points, but their opening drive of the half stalled and Brady adamantly voiced his displeasure with Welker, who may have run the wrong route a couple of plays earlier. Brady was then sacked on 3rd down and openly voiced his displeasure with his offensive line as well. After scoring on their first four possessions, the Pats failed to come away with points again.

After a Buffalo punt, the next Patriots drive was much more Patriot-like. They struck quickly and efficiently, going 39 yards in 1:39 as Brady found Woodhead for his second touchdown catch of the day and the 31-17 lead. Sunday was the first time in his five-year NFL career that Woodhead has recorded a multi-touchdown game. For the sixth time in nine games, the Patriots offense hit the 30 point plateau (5-1). Brady would finish the game 23-38 for 237 yards and two touchdowns.

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NFL Week 10: Bills @ Patriots

Will Gronkowski dominate his hometown team once again?

The second half of the season has arrived for the 2012 New England Patriots. With a roller coaster 5-3 start, Bill Belichick and crew have weathered the storm to settle on top of the AFC East. Furthermore, the Patriots went on their Week 9 bye after an impressive schoolyard stomping of the Rams – winning 45-7 and looking like the unstoppable 2007 attack. Since 2003, Belichick teams hold a record of 8-1 in games after the bye, New England lost to Pittsburgh 25-17 last year. The jury is still not out on the 2012 Patriots, three of the next four games come against division rivals.

The 3-5 Buffalo Bills will travel into Gillette Stadium this Sunday, creating an opportunity for the Patriots to distinguish themselves and cement their slot atop the AFC East for good. New England has not lost a game in the second half of the season since Week 17 of the 2009 season. Buffalo has not beat the Patriots on the road since Week 10 of 2000, will the tables turn? Check out these three keys to victory for the Patriots to extend their second half success come Sunday:

1) Run the Ball: It was not too long ago (Week 4) that the Patriots dropped a 45-point half and 580 total yards to dismantle the hopeful Bills at home. How did New England achieve their success? For starters, the team rushed 40 times – spreading the love to Bolden (16 ATT, 137 yards, 1 TD) and Ridley (22 ATT 106 yards, 2 TD). Brady even joined the mix with a four-yard TD scamper that fired up the Hall-Of-Famer and his squad on the bench.

The Patriots need to keep the Bills on their heels by executing a balanced offensive attack. Week in and week out opposing defenses face the challenge of stopping the monster that is the New England offensive unit. Buffalo is coming off a 21-9 loss to the Houston Texas where Arian Foster rushed for 111 yards and Andre Johnson hauled in 8 rec for 118 yards. The week before that, Chris Johnson ripped Buffalo for 198 yards and 2 TD on the ground. Setting up success in the pass game will rely heavily on New England’s ability to expose the Bills pompous rush defense, Buffalo ranks second to last in the NFL with 169.2 YPG and last in YPC, giving up 5.6 yards per scamper.

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