Tag Archives: Defense
The Patriots have suffered a huge loss following their Sunday night win over Atlanta as five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork has reportedly torn his right Achilles, according to Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe, and is believed to be out for the remainder of the season. League sources have since confirmed the report.
Wilfork left the game in the first quarter and it was originally reported that he had suffered an ankle injury. He was taken off on a cart and was seen leaving the stadium with a boot on his right foot. Bill Belichick was also reportedly seen talking with Wilfork’s wife outside the New England locker room following the game. Leading up to the Week 4 meeting with the Falcons, Wilfork appeared on the Patriots’ injury report with what was listed as a foot injury.
Wilfork has missed only six games in his 10-year NFL career and played in all 16 in each of the last three seasons. The 325-pounder has been a longtime staple in the team’s run defense that is 13th in the league after four weeks this season, allowing 105 yards per game.
Surgery is likely to happen in the next few days and the team is left with young and unproven guys in the middle including Tommy Kelly, Joe Vellano and Chris Jones at an already thin defensive tackle position.
Wilfork had nine tackles in four games this season. He will be 32 next month and presuming he returns in time for the 2014 season, it will be a contract year for him.
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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.
It has been quite some time since the New England secondary has had consistent anchors such as Ty Law and Asante Samuel protecting the deep ball. After newcomer Aqib Talib went down last year in the playoffs, it was quite apparent that the Patriots need to establish a solid core of defensive backs moving forward.
The safety position has been a bit of a revolving door, but the Patriots hope this year’s group can aid in the protecting against the pass. Starters Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory return to a Patriot defense that lead the NFL in Give/Take (+25) and the AFC in Interceptions (21). While it will certainly be difficult to replicate that success, New England is stacked at the safety position.
Let’s take a look at who else is on the training camp roster and their potential for contribution.
Adrian Wilson: This seasoned 13-year Arizona Cardinal veteran is a physical specimen that will have a strong presence in the box for the Patriots. Standing at 6’ 3”, we may also see Wilson drop into coverage against tight ends and larger wide receivers – playing in the box. New England got burned last year by Aquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta pretty badly and you can count on Belichick making sure this does not happen again. After losing Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers, Adrian is hungry to capture that elusive ring. His intensity can only benefit the Patriots this season on and off the field.
Duron Harmon: A suprise pick by to many when drafted in the third round this past April, Belichick nabbed the First-Team all-Big East Rutgers safety. As a junior, Harmon recorded five interceptions and has exceptional ball skills by knocking down seven passes his senior year. Duron has the opportunity to learn under Devin McCourty, who has now officially shifted to free safety. Furthermore, having a second year guy on the squad who has contributed, Tavon Wilson, will help Harmon adjust the Belichick way.
Tavon Wilson: After recording four interceptions in his rookie campaign, Tavon displayed his knack for getting a nose on the ball. There is no doubt about it, the Patriots have defensive weapons. Wilson is just another one in the arsenal. Fans and player personnel should be excited to witness the progression of Tavon in 2013.
Nate Ebner: The former Ohio State rugby star is a straight animal and because of this Ebner possesses a unique field vision. Nate made a handful of impact plays on special teams last year for the Patriots. While his role may increase, he is just another cog in the system. Fortunately for him, our safety depth is strong and he has the opportunity to earn a spot in a highly competitive defensive backfield. Comparing him to either of the Ventrones does not do his talent level justice. I see Ebner creating some turnovers this year for New England one way or another.
Kanorris Davis: Undrafted out of Troy, Davis actually played the LB position undersized and forced 10 fumbles over his college career. Who knows if he will actually make the team; however, there is no denying the fact that Belichick prefers versatile players.
The depth here is obvious and it starts with Devin McCourty who will be the most consistent of the bunch. Patriots fans had their share of dismay with McCourty his second and third seasons at corner back, but he has proved to be a consummate professional and truly thrived when moving to safety full-time. In a recent interview with Sirius XM radio, veteran Adrian Wilson was quoted on his leadership role with the Patriots stating, “Right now, I’m just in the background. They have great leaders here. Devin [McCourty], he’s pretty much the leader in the secondary. I just fall in line with him. I may comment here and there, but overall, it’s his secondary pretty much.”
This secondary is shaping up to be an underrated and dangerous collective unit. Expect the Patriots to keep five, maybe six of the aforementioned players, so it will be interesting when final cuts come around.
The Boston Celtics won their sixth straight game Monday night at the Garden against the Charlotte Bobcats by a score of 100-89. This notched the Celtics’ sixth straight win and brought them to a 20-17 overall record.
If you think they have played easy teams during their win streak like the Bobcats who just came off an 18 game losing streak and a struggling Suns team that has a record of 12-25 well guess again. To start this streak they topped the Central Division leading Pacers, a solid Hawks team with a 21-16 record, the streaking Knicks who have been hot all season and sit atop the Atlantic Division, and the Rockets who are first in the league in scoring at 105.4 points per game and are led by one of the top scorers in James Harden.
The C’s have not looked this good all season. What has changed? Two things: defense and players stepping up and contributing.
The defense has held strong for the Celtics and it has been a big reason for their success the past six games. To start the season they gave up 100 or more points in 13 of their first 30 games including six games just in December. In the past six games they have yet to give up 100 points and have held their opponents to under 85 points on three different occasions. The saying defense wins games holds true for the Celtics. They have plenty of talent on the team to score. If they play defense and stop other teams they will win more games.
The other piece to the puzzle for the success the C’s have had lately is players stepping up on the team. When someone has an off night somebody else has stepped up and filled that void. The Celtics have a lot of talented stars on the team and any one of them can score and play at a high level. They can’t just rely on the Big Three to score a lot and carry the team every game. Players have been stepping up and contributing both on the offensive side and defensive side.
Avery Bradley has been a big asset to the defense harassing opposing guards and causing turnovers. In Monday nights game Kevin Garnett played well and had 10 rebounds, but it was an off night for him scoring wise as he only had seven points. Jason Terry did not score at all last night coming off the bench, but because other guys filled that void in scoring and the team was able to be successful. Avery Bradley had 16 points including four big threes. Rondo led the team with a triple double, Jeff Green chipped in 11 points off the bench and Jared Sullinger contributed 8 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. Courtney Lee also scored 9 points and hit a big three in the fourth quarter to help the Celtics seal the deal.
Against the Phoenix Suns Paul Pierce only scored 7 points and Rondo had 8 points. Jared Sullinger however had a career night off the bench with 12 points and 16 rebounds. Jeff Green led all Celtics in scoring with 14 off the bench and Jason Terry added 13.
This just shows that the Celtics are very versatile and if one or two players have an off game in one particular area then there are several other players that can pick up the slack, and they have successfully done that and that is a big reason why the Celtics are winning lately.
Stemming from my preview yesterday, BST&N will now take a look at how Tom Brady and his squadron will fair against the dangerous Texan defense. Five weeks ago, J.J. Watt failed to record a sack on Tom Brady in the 42-14 blowout. Although he forced three QB hits and a fumble on Danny Woodhead, the Patriots limited the success of the perennial DPOY in a variety of ways. From running Hernandez out of the backfield to attacking the secondary deep, McDaniels kept Wade Phillips and the Texan defense on their heals in Week 14. Let’s take a deeper dive into the Divisional Round Matchup.
What stood out to me in Week 14 was the active play of safety Glover Quin. Starting all 16 games of 2012, Quin logged 84 tackles and 2 INT. Phillips utilized Quin in the blitz often and he recorded a big TFL on a third down before the game got out of hand. Glover also knocked down one pass on Monday Night Football to go alongside his 7 tackles. While he did get torched on deep balls to Lloyd and Stallworth, you can bet your mortgage that the Texan secondary will keep receivers in front of them on Sunday. Keep in mind, CB Jonathan Joseph just returned to the field against the Patriots in the regular season. He has since brushed off the rust and picked off Andy Dalton last week.
Brady put on a clinic in Week 14, posting the following line:
21/35 – 296 YDS – 4 TD – 0 INT – 125.4 Passer Rating
Bringing back Gronkowski will shift the focus for Texan safeties and linebackers, creating more opportunities for Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen to cause problems in the pass game. The Patriots ran multiple stretch play actions in Week 14, opening up the middle of the field and causing confusion. New England is known for their intricate screen game, expect a heavy dosage of these cute plays away from J.J. Swatt. His 20.5 sacks and 16 pass deflections are not a fluke, he is a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
New England rushed the ball 30 times for 133 yards in Week 14. Ridley pounded the rock three times in a row on their first possession in hopes of softening the defense. With ball security issues haunting him all year, protecting the pigskin is priority number one on Sunday. That goes for TB12 as well, we all remember how Baltimore stormed into Gillette – scored on their first drive and then stripped Brady on the following possession. If Hernandez does not recover Ridley’s fumble the outcome of this game could have been drastically different.