Tag Archives: Devin McCourty

NFL Week 16 Preview : Patriots @ Ravens

Playoff implications are on the line in Week 16 in Baltimore. Who will come to play?

After a 4-6 start, the Baltimore Ravens have won their last four – making a strong late season push to return to the playoffs for the sixth straight campaign. The rematch of last year’s AFC Championship was originally scheduled for Sunday Night Football, but got flexed to 4:25 in favor of the Bears vs. Eagles. Including the playoffs, the Ravens are 3-3 against the Patriots over the past six years. This non-division rivalry reached new heights when Baltimore denied New England a chance to play in the Super Bowl last year, embarrassing the Patriots in Gillette Stadium 28-13 and then hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Sitting a game behind the 9-5 Bengals, the Ravens have clawed their way back to wildcard legitimacy despite their worst rushing production in recent years of 82.9 YPG. Ray Rice is averaging a subpar (to say the least) 3.1 YPC, but has always found success against the Patriots. New England is coming off the wrong end of their fifth straight game decided by one score or less with a 24-20 last second loss in Miami. This is easily the most adversity a Patriots team has faced in the Belichick era, off-season departures and season-ending injuries are truly beginning to dictate just how much gas is left in the tank as we approach January football.

Brady couldn’t be more accurate with his statement after the Dolphins game, “There is a small margin of error”. The team is young and with inexperience comes mistakes. Without the security blanket of Gronk in the lineup, Tom has relied on Julian “Minitron” Edelman as his go-to. Jules has 89 receptions for 914 yards and 6 TD but the efficiency lost in the Red Zone seems irreplaceable. Outside of that consistent production, no one player has been a staple every given sunday. For the second straight week, the Pats have an opportunity to lock up their fifth straight AFC East title. Because the Steelers beat the Bengals last week, the Patriots are still in line to receive the 2 seed if they win out. What will give tomorrow afternoon? Can New England take the next step in restoring the faith or does Baltimore stay hot and give the Pats a reality check? Weather is calling for a 60 degree day with thunderstorm possibilities, here’s to hoping we don’t see a repeat of the brutal Cincinnati conditions. Check out these three keys to victory for an important late-season matchup for Belichick and company:

1) Contain Torrey Smith: Despite a modest total of 59 receptions and 4 TD, the UMaryland burner has 1,032 yards on the season. Smith has recorded a grab of 40+ yards in 8 games this year with a long of 74. Week after week, the Patriots have been burned over the top from the likes of Mike Wallace, Josh Gordon, Andre Johnson and more. These impact plays occur far too often, illustrating a glaring weakness aside from the depleted defensive line.

New England is allowing 132.5 rushing YPG, putting them at the bottom of the pack at 31st in the NFL. Assuming Ray Rice returns to normality with the porous front seven, limiting the Flacco to Torrey connection is imperative. Furthermore, TE Dennis Pitta made his 2013 debut two weeks ago – filling the void that the Boldin departure created. Flacco has 18 TD and 17 INT on the season. He is on pace to record the largest amount of passing attempts and turnovers in his career. If Chandler and Nink are able to win their respective matchups, it will be a long day for the Ravens offense. McCourty and Gregory also need to have solid performances over the top at safety if New England wants any chance to escape with a victory.

2) Special Teams: For as clutch and consistent as Gostkowski has been this year, he killed the Patriots last week with his third missed field goal of the season and an untimely kickoff out-of-bounds. This ultimately allowed Miami to score that go-ahead touchdown and forced New England to score a TD in the last seconds compared to a manageable chip shot. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens have one of the most dangerous returners in Jacoby Jones. He has one touchdown on the season but is always a threat to take it all the way. Baltimore placekicker Justin Tucker had a legendary performance last week with six field goals and a game winning 61 yarder. The third phase of the game will be an important factor in the outcome of tomorrow’s contest. Execution is key.

3) Linebacker Play: Dont’a Hightower and Dane Fletcher have been the recipients of additional playing time after Mayo’s season-ending pectoral injury. While Fletcher made some game-changing plays against Denver, Hightower struggled brutally in coverage against Miami last week. Yancy Thigpen caught a 14 yard TD pass with 1:15 left in which had Dont’a turned around and played the ball, he would have easily intercepted Tannehill’s game-winning pass. Hightower is solid in the run but has not been able to make enough plays when they matter. The Rice/Pierce backfield is an above average tandem and this game will be physical. The Ravens have weapons all over the field and the Patriots will need to cause a turnover if they want to get this done on the road.

These teams don’t like each other and playoff implications are on the line. What more could you ask for? I believe the Patriots can get it done with some timely luck that seems to alternate week in and week out. 21-18 New England.

NFL Week 15 Preview : Patriots @ Dolphins

Bill Belichick may have his toughest challenge to date after the loss of Gronkowski

It wasn’t pretty, in fact – it was a gruesome, improbable and miraculous 27-26 victory by Tom Brady and the Patriots last week against the Browns. Toss up, losing against Cleveland in Week 14 or losing Gronk for the postseason run? I think we all know the answer here. Just after New England escaped again in Houston, following a historic comeback versus Denver, the Pats absorbed their biggest blow of the season. It’s difficult to understand how New England is 10-3 after season-ending surgeries to two Pro Bowl defensive leaders in Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork. Losing the best TE in the game is just icing on the cake. If anything, 2013 has been an opportunity to reflect on how great of a mastermind Bill Belichick really is. He has been able to produce more with less for years and faces his steepest uphill climb to date. No one deserves the coach of the year more than BB.

While a death stare from the hooded menace may have taken the Browns safety’s soul, T.J. Ward took Gronk’s ACL/MCL in the 3rd quarter. Rewind to the first six weeks and the Patriots posted a scrappy 5-1 record without Rob, there’s hope.

New England controls their own #1 seed destiny after San Diego upset Peyton Manning and the Broncos last night 27-20. Furthermore, the Patriots have a chance to clinch their 11th AFC East title in 12 years by defeating the (7-6) playoff hungry Dolphins in Miami on Sunday. Incognito v Martin is still brewing but this mini-run is somewhat of a smoke-in-mirrors to their embarrassing MNF loss to a winless Tampa Bay squad at the height of the scandal. 2013 has been a roller-coaster ride full of luck, controversy and struggle for some but Belichick and Brady are exactly where every team in the NFL wants to be – a game away from clinching. The Patriots have the opportunity to make the Superbowl go through Gillette Stadium by winning out and it starts at Sun Life Stadium at 1:00 PM on CBS. Check out these three keys to victory for the New England:

1) Protect the ball: Over their last six games, the Patriots have had seven turnovers in the first half of these contests. That’s one easy way to fall behind early and often. This trend has been the achilles’ heal to an uncharacteristic season. Belichick is known for his second-half adjustments but these halftime deficits are scary and need to vanish, ASAP. Despite ranking 31st in the NFL by allowing opponents a healthy 135.8 rushing YPG, the young New England defensive unit has kept the Patriots in games by forcing 24 takeaways – good for 2nd in the AFC. When the Gronk returned in Week 7 and beyond, Brady smothered him with targets to a point where fans realized there was such a thing as forcing it too much to the beast. Tom was trigger happy and let more than a few get away from him in the first half of the season. Chemistry later developed and the offense was clicking on all cylinders, but now it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

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NFL 2013: BST&N’s Patriots Midseason Report Card

The Gronk could only be held out of the endzone for so long. TB12 is back on track.



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It’s been one crazy roller-coaster ride for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in 2013. Entering the season with a key playmaker departure in Welker and Hernandez gate in full swing, the odds were not in favor of the 3-time Superbowl Champions. Furthermore, after season-ending injuries to defensive captains Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, the Red Sox playoff chase took a front-seat to what seemed like a rocky road ahead for New England. Sprinkle in Gronk’s lengthy return, Vereen’s IR stint and Amendola’s notoriously fragile nature, the Patriots seemed doomed after multiple sputtering offensive performances. Early season woes aside, Brady and company sit atop the AFC East at (7-2), while the Jets (5-4) and Dolphins (4-5) trail a few games back. There is a new powerhouse in the (9-0) Kansas City Chiefs, just one game ahead of Peyton Manning and the (8-1) Denver Broncos in the AFC West. Division leaders (6-3) Colts and (6-4) Bengals peaked early but looked subpar in Week 10 losses.

Belichick is a November and December mastermind which bodes well for the Patriots who are lucky to even be in this position in 2013. After resting up this week on the bye, New England travels into Carolina for a MNF matchup against a (6-3) Panther team that has won 5 straight – most recently San Francisco on the road. As we enter the second half of the 2013 season, check out this report card grading the Patriot’s performance thus far.

Passing Offense: C+ : Despite dropping 432 yards and 4 touchdowns on a Dick LeBeau Steeler’s defense in Week 9, Tom Brady is averaging exactly 200 yards less in 2013 (232 YPG). There is no doubt the aforementioned injuries above took a toll on TB12’s production in the first half of the year. Historically completing 63.4% of his passes, Brady sits at 57.1%, 13 TDs and 6 INT through 9 games. He passed for less than 250 yards in 5/9 games, something he only did 4 times last year. Tom had a rough October, throwing 2 TD and 4 INT but quickly dismissed skeptics with the dominating performance against Pittsburgh. On passes 11-20 yards through the air, Brady is only completing 45.7%; however he has logged 7 TD and 2 INT. His swollen hand is an afterthought and “the decline” of Brady does not seem imminent. With Gronkowski (19 rec, 284 yds, 1TD) came a renewed chemistry and a versatile offensive attack. TB12 is better than 13 TDs through 9 games, Peyton Manning has 33. The only reason they are not lower on this two weeks ago was a preview of the success that can still be attained.

Rushing Offense: B+ : What started as running back by committee has quickly become Stevan Ridley’s (118 car, 514 yds, 6 td) backfield to lose once again. The Patriots average 129.1 rushing YPG, good for 8th in the NFL. This provides an imperative balance Brady continues to lean upon during his supbar start to 2013. The Patriots came into the season with a healthy lot of 5 halfbacks, adding LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington to go alongside Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden. Blount is the only player to remain unscathed by the injury bug, logging carries and kick returns, yes kick returns, in every game (70 car, 312 yds, 2 td). Vereen looked sharp, gaining 159 total yards in Week 1 before it was discovered his wrist needed to be surgically repaired – forcing him to IR until Week 11. With Shane out, Bolden stepped up as the passing down back with 107 yards receiving and 205 yards rushing/2 touchdowns. Depth at RB is integral and New England only looks up as do-it-all Vereen is slated to make his much needed return on Monday Night Football.

Offensive Line: C+ : The Patriots allowed 27 sacks all of last year, care to guess how many they have surrendered just over the half way point in 2013? The answer is 26, yikes. Although the Pro Bowl caliber core hogs have not changed much since last year, RT Sebastian Vollmer broke his right leg in Week 8 against the Dolphins and has been spelled by Marcus Cannon. There are many variables that have caused a spike in the number of opponents getting to Brady. First and foremost, Tom is not as mobile and athletic as he used to be. There are countless times this season where TB opts for the “safe play” by taking the sack by being passive in the pocket. He was never nimble by any means but at times turns heads with a juke here or there. Without the Gronk security blanket, Brady does not have enough chemistry to trust his receivers with risky back-shoulder attempts. In turn, plays are taking longer to execute. Furthermore, the lack of experience from the receiving corps creates situations where hot-reads become ever important. So while some of the blame is shifted off the o-line due to the rushing success, they need to give Tom more time in the pocket.

Wide Receivers: B : Amendola is what we thought he was. A talented, young and feisty competitor with a nose for big plays. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to shake the injury woes trailing him from St. Louis and has missed 4/9 games to start the year. There will never be another Welker; however, Edelman has filled the slot nicely, hauling in 49 of 74 targets for 473 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jules started the year hot with 34 receptions in the first 4 games but just 15 in the next 5. He has cooled down recently in favor of rookie Aaron Dobson (31 rec, 454 yds, 4 TD), who mysteriously overtook fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkin’s (23 rec, 334 yds, 2 TD). While Kenbrell never looked sure handed, he did make that game-winning catch against New Orleans. Gronk looks to be back at it and remains on another level. In 3 games he’s been targeted an aggressive 33 times, catching 19 of those passes at an average of 14.9 yards for 284 yards total. If he’s out there at full strength, the Patriots are dangerous contenders. “B” rating for putting up solid numbers despite a ton of drops and inexperience.

Defense Line: A- : Keeping up with the Jones’. Quickly becoming one of the most athletic and distinguished families in all of sports, Chandler Jones is making a strong case for a Honolulu dance. The DE leads the Pats with 8.5 sacks on the year, following the footsteps of Baltimore Ravens DT Art Jones and the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones Jones. He has displayed flashes of finesse and bull rushes of strength, attracting double teams as of late. Week in and week out, Chandler continues to disrupt the QB and has been the anchor on the defensive line with Wilfork out. Ninkovich remains solid with 3 sacks on the year. As a unit, New England has limited opponents to 232.8 passing YPG – good for 12th in the NFL. On the ground, teams are pounding the rock at an average of 128.2 YPG which is 30th in the NFL, that is where Wilfork is felt most. Now after losing Tommy Kelly, rookies Chris Jones and Joe Vellano had some serious pressure on them. How have they responded? Keep reading to find out.

Defensive Rookies: A- : The Patriots have a host of rookies receiving ample opportunity in 2013. The aforementioned DT Chris Jones has 5 sacks & 1 huge “penalty” against the Jets. Aside from that “mistake”, he has been brilliant in attempting to fill some pretty heavy shoes. Fellow DT Joe Vellano has also proven to be a solid run-stuffer half way through the year. Next up is LB Jamie Collins. Quiet to date, Collins and veteran Dane Fletcher have been splitting the reserve duties with Mayo out. It seems as though Jamie has a little ways to go in Belichick’s book. Notorious for his premature crotch grab pick six TD celebration against the Jets, CB Logan Ryan still has a lot to work on. Just last week a touchdown flew right by his head as he played the receiver, not the ball. We get it, who doesn’t love big plays? Logan has been successful rushing the QB off the edge with 1.5 sacks but will need to improve on his ball skills to become a well-rounded cornerback. S Duron Harmon only recorded 8 tackles but has a nack for the ball with 3 PD and 2 INT. These plays need to continue in the coming months. DT Michael Buchanan has not seen much time but when he has it’s been effective, getting the QB twice in 2013. That’s six rookies on defense, it’s been a while

Defensive Backs: B+ : You can’t start anywhere else except with the exceptional play from CB Aqib Talib. In the 6 games he’s started, Talib has 9 PD, 4 INT and 1 FF. He prevented the NFC’s Gronk (Jimmy Graham) from recording a single catch in Week 6 but has not seen the field since with that lingering hip injury. Spotted at practice the past couple weeks, Aqib is questionable but is expected to return against the Panthers. S Devin McCourty has carved out a nice space in the Patriots defense as a defensive captain and center fielder, making multiple TD saving deflections, breakups and 1 INT. His leadership play alongside veteran Steve Gregory makes for a solid and consistent group; quite the opposite from old friends Brandon Merriweather and Patrick Chung. Gregory was wearing the communication device in his helmet the past two games but just recently broke his thumb and is expected to miss at least a couple weeks. Kyle Arrington, Alfonso Dennard and Marquice Cole continue to be serviceable NFL cornerbacks, not making outstanding reads/jumps but not giving up homerun balls either. New England can improve on their man-to-man coverage but made enough impact plays to survive.

Special Teams: A- : Another rookie, P Ryan Allen beat out Zoltan Mesko in training camp for the gig. Mesko didn’t even make the trip to Foxboro in Week 9 – getting cut midweek. Allen is averaging 46.9 yards per boot with a 39.9 net. Although a long of 65 yards is impressive, it was a touchback and that area of his kicking needs to take a turn for the better. K Stephen Gostkowski has returned to his accurate ways, converting on 22/23 tries with a long of 54. Furthermore, he’s had his fare share of clutch kicks during a couple nail-biters. What pushes this rating into the “A” bracket is the effectiveness of PR Julian Edelman. He is average 11.5 yards per return and has made the field short for Tom Brady and company in key situations. Belichick preaches executing in “all three phases of the game” and the Patriots would not have a 7-2 record if they weren’t solid all around. If Talib can make a healthy run in November/December, watch out NFL.

Regular Season Prediction: 13-3, 2 seed behind Denver (13-3 with tiebreaker)

Playoff Prediction: Lose 34-31 in AFC Championship @ Denver

Patriots Crush Steelers At Home With 55-Point Performance

Stevan Ridley powered into the end zone twice as the Pats' offense bursted out for 55 points.

On a chilly day turned night at Gillette Stadium, when it looked like the 2-5 Steelers would do enough to beat themselves, Tom Brady made sure he did more than was necessary while making a bit of history in the process.

Not to be outdone by the Red Sox, who were welcomed to the turf pregame with their new hardware, the Patriots put forth their best offensive effort of the year (almost twice as best as their previous-high for points) and beat the scuffling Steelers, 55-31, behind four touchdown passes from Brady. In so doing, they improved to 5-0 at home in 2013
“I’m not sure exactly how it all happened today,” said Bill Belichick after the game. “Maybe we got inspiration from the Red Sox.”
A Ben Roethlisberger interception set the Pats up with decent field position at the Pittsburgh 34 on their third drive of the game after they were unable to turn a Roethlisberger fumble into points on their first drive. After a one-yard Brandon Bolden touchdown run was nullified (by a Pittsburgh penalty), Stevan Ridley was stopped on 4th & goal. But, for the second straight possession, the Steelers would turn it over as Roethlisberger was picked off by Devin McCourty. One play later, Brady hit Danny Amendola for his first touchdown as a Patriot and his longest reception, a 34-yarder, for the 7-0 lead with under five to go in the first.

Before long, it was 14-0. After using his tight ends twice on the drive that started from their own 33, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for his second touchdown throw of the afternoon and one of Gronk’s career-high nine catches. His first multi-touchdown performance since Week 4 gave the Pats the 14-0 lead with 10 to go in the half.

Looking to answer, a big play to Emmanuel Sanders set the Steelers up in the red zone, but Pittsburgh was unable to get in the end zone and Shaun Suisham was summoned for the 30-yard field goal to make it 14-3.
Stephen Gostkowski then added three of his own, connecting on his 16th straight field goal from 20 yards out, but a Brady sack in the red zone led to New England having to settle for three.
Building on some of the momentum from their previous drive, the Steelers drove down the field in just four and Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown from 27 yards out to cut the Pittsburgh deficit in half with two minutes to go.
An effective two-minute drill from the Pats would make it 24-10 at the half as Ridley took it in for the fourth straight game with 13 seconds left in the second. Brady threw for 252 yards in the first two quarters, his most in a game since Oct. 18, 2009.
It was all Steelers to start the third though as twice Roethlisberger hot Jericho Cotchery to tie the game at 24 just eight minutes into the quarter before Gostkowski connected on his second of the day to put New England back up, 27-24 with 2:42 left.
Then, after passing Warren Moon to move into sixth place on the all-time completions list, Brady connected with Aaron Dobson for his third touchdown throw of the day and, more importantly, the Pats extended the lead back to 10 just after the start of the fourth.

A big 12-yard sack by Dane Fletcher on third down would force a Pittsburgh punt. With under 13 minutes remaining, the Patriots took over looking for the knockout blow. And they did just that. Ridley took it in for his second touchdown of the day to cap a eight-play, 61-yard drive and push the Pats over the 40-point plateau for the first time this season as they went up 41-24.

Brady then capped off his day with an 81-yard touchdown to Dobson, who went over 100 yards with the grab and for the first time in his career. The throw gave Brady his 15th career four-touchdown, no interception game – the most all-time. LeGarrette Blount added a five-yard run with under three minutes left.

Brady would finish 23-of-33 on the day for 432 yards and the four touchdown passes. Gronkowski had 143 yards, Amendola chipped in with 122 and Dobson piled up 130. Ridley found the end zone twice and ended up with 115 yards. It was the sixth time under Brady that the Pats have put up 50 points in a game.

The All-Pro summed it up nicely after the game, saying “You throw it, they catch it, they run with it. It makes a good day for a quarterback.”

The Pats are off next week before resuming their schedule in Week 11 in a date with the Panthers on Monday night in which Shane Vereen could return. Pittsburgh fell to a disappointing 2-6 on the year.

 

Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

NFL Week 9 Preview : Steelers @ Patriots

Gronk has been denied a touchdown in his first two contests, will the Steelers be able to make it three in a row? Odds are not in Pittsburgh's favor.

Gronk has been denied a TD in his first two contests, will the Steelers be able to make it three in a row? The odds are not in Pittsburgh’s favor, as they travel into Gillette Stadium for a nationally televised 4:25 CBS game.

Coming into the 2013 NFL season, this matchup promised to be an early November battle of two AFC heavyweights. With the Steelers currently sitting at (2-5) and the Patriots looking like a (2-6) squad with a (6-2) record, both teams find themselves in unchartered waters. After losing Mike Wallace to the Dolphins, Big Ben (8 TD, 7 INT, 46.7 QBR) has struggled without a consistent rushing attack to fall back on. Pittsburgh averages just 68.7 YPG on the ground, good for 30th in the NFL. Le’Veon Bell has flashed signs of greatness since making his rookie debut in Week 4 but has not broke a run longer than 11 yards.Better yet, the Steelers have just 1 rush longer than 20 yards. Look for the Steelers to try and exploit the absence of Wilfork and Kelly, as well as the inexperience of recently acquired Isaac Sopoaga.

Still 2 games atop the AFC East, it’s no secret Tom Brady (9TD, 6 INT, 48.6 QBR) is not playing at an elite level. Yes, he lost weapons in the offseason but TB12 continues to feel the injury bug wrath that has plagued the Patriots all season long. Amendola has missed 4/8 games and Gronk is finally back on the field for the 3rd straight week. What seemed like a rough 17-3 start to last Sunday turned into 24 unanswered points in the 2nd half. What was the deciding factor in the 27-17 victory; the (3-1) give/take ratio (3-1) in favor of the Pats. New England has forced a turnover in a remarkable 35 games in a row, look for Belichick to keep the aggressive defensive schemes rolling in Week 9. In order to stay undefeated at home and move to (7-2) before the bye, these 3 keys to victory will be imperative come Sunday at 4:25 on CBS.

1) Get Ridley going early: Enough of the disciplinary/Belichick shenanigan ghost starts in the 2nd quarter and beyond. Yes, Stevan had a rough start to the season and fumbles will most likely always haunt the back. But when it comes down to production, Ridley deserves more snaps, earlier in the game. After coming back from his early-season injury, the LSU alum has scored in 3 straight games – averaging 5 YPC on 45 carries for 225 yards and 4TD. Seeing Vereen back at practice this week is a positive sign towards his Week 11 availability coming off IR. He will slide right into the “passing back” role, currently occupied by Brandon Bolden who has played 51.3% of the snaps over the past 4 games. Pittsburgh has surrendered an average of 121.9 YPG on the ground (27th in NFL) but thrive through the air, only giving up 181 YPG (2nd in NFL). If the Pats can get it done on the ground, early and often, I don’t see this sputtering Steelers squad scoring enough points to win. Big Ben and company have scored 10 points or less in 3 of 7 games this year, yikes.

2) Finish strong:  The Patriots can take a page out of the World Series Champion’s book for this one. An ideal combination of starting fast and finishing strong is obvious; however, let’s get a bit more granular. There have been too many times on 3rd down that the first tackler gets dragged and better yet, whiffs all together. When New England starts hot, they let teams back into competition. If they get off to a slow first half, they turn up in the 3rd and 4th quarters. The Patriots have not pieced together a full 60 minutes all year, Belichick will be the first to agree. This goes for special teams as well. Old friend Zoltan Mesko returns to Gillette, replaced by rookie Ryan Allen who has filled his shoes admirably. Gostowski is back to his Pro Bowl ways, converting on 20/21 field goals and making some huge kicks late in games. On the contrary, Amendola needs to peel it back a bit. We are half way through the season and we need him for the playoffs. The white chalk is your friend, run out of bounds once in a while.

3) Disrupt Big Ben: Roethlisberger is the king of escaping sacks due to his pure strength and large frame. The Patriots blitzing schemes were impressive last week, bringing down Ryan Tannehill 4 times. The Steelers’ offensive line is vulnerable, allowing 26 sacks through 7 games, close to 3 a game. Brady hasn’t been too elusive himself, going down 23 times thus far. Chandler is playing like a Pro Bowler and the bearded Nink remains consistent. The surprises to date are the play of rookies Chris Jones and Joe Vellano, the recent Isaac Sopoaga trade and the injury of defensive captain Vince Wilfork. It seems as if New England has weathered the storm. Get in Big Ben’s face and the rest will play out accordingly.

Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are the weapons the Patriots need to contain. The cornerback play has been solid without Aqib and Devin McCourty has found himself at safety. Limiting these two playmakers is key and if only one finds the endzone, I like our chances. Patriots move to (7-2), win 27-17 and head into the bye clicking on all cylinders. Oh and Vereen in Week 11…

Big Second Half Lifts Patriots Past Dolphins

Brandon Bolden celebrates his third-quarter touchdown that tied the game at 17 apiece.


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For pretty much all of the first half, it looked as though Week 8 against Miami would mirror the dreadful finish in the Week 7 loss to the Jets as the offense could get nothing going, the Dolphins were running through the injury-depleted defensive front and Tom Brady’s hand had swelled up to the size of a balloon. Patriots Nation was certainly frustrated for a bit as their team found themselves down 17-3 at halftime, before Brady, doing all he could to keep his throwing hand functioning, led them back in the second half for the 27-17 win with 24 unanswered points despite not picking up a first down until the final minute of the first quarter.

We can skip the majority of the first half lowlights, like Brady getting picked on his first attempt while throwing for only 25 yards, and just give the ugly particulars. A Brandon Gibson reception after three third-down conversions and a Daniel Thomas run put the ‘Phins up, 14-0, just five minutes into the second and rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis made it 17-3 before the half, but it was his miss in the third quarter, after the Patriots had gone three-and-out with just a miserable drive, that gave the home team some momentum back. Dont’a Hightower sacked Ryan Tannehill on third down and Sturgis’ kick hit the upright from 46 yards away.

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