Tag Archives: zoltan mesko

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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NFL Preseason: Patriots vs. Buccaneers – 5 Things to Watch For

The Patriots look to put this moment behind them and take on the Buccaneers in Preseason Week 2 action

The Patriots look to put this moment behind them and take on the Buccaneers in Preseason Week 2 action

It’s been a long five years since Franchise QB Tom Brady went down with his infamous knee injury in 2008. Yesterday helped millions access the suppressed memory, a chilling reminder of how gruesome the NFL can be. While reports have surfaced that he plans to practice today and play in tonight’s preseason game, only time will tell. Although TB12 will be the main attraction at 8 P.M. on FOX, there is much to be analyzed by Belichick. Keep your eyes peeled for these five things against the Buccaneers:

1. TE Situation: With Gronk slated to start the season on the PUP, all eyes are on 6′ 7″ rook Zach Sudfeld from Nevada and seasoned veteran Jake Ballard during the preseason. Sudfeld played 34 of 72 snaps last week against the Eagles notching one reception for 22 yards on two targets, it will be interesting to monitor his activity tonight. Old friends Daniel Fells (3 rec 27 yards) and Michael Hoomanawanui are known for their blocking but it’s no secret that the Patriots rely heavily on the tight end position for production. Tonight will be another opportunity to take a closer look at these cogs.

2. LB Core: As Brandon Spikes returned to the practice field this week, so did another challenge for the New England defense. Buccaneers stud Doug Martin is quickly becoming an elite running back in the NFL. After facing LeSean McCoy against the Eagles, the Patriots will be tested once again in Preseason Week 2. It will be great to see how rookie Jamie Collins and others fair against a mildly proven but undeniable talent.

3. Special Teams: The writing has been on the wall for K Stephen Gostowski the past few years. He has missed some critical kicks in important situations and the NFL kick-off yardage increase no longer positions him as a touchback specialist. Gostowski shanked tries from 44 and 53 in the opener and needs to improve. The Patriots brought rookie punter Ryan Allen (Louisana Tech) into camp this Su

Vereen Leads Patriots Past Texans, Back To AFC Title Game

Dual threat: Shane Vereen scored three touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing) to lead the Patriots past the Texans and back into the AFC Championship game.

Dual threat: Shane Vereen scored three touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing) to lead the Patriots past the Texans and back into the AFC Championship game.

Remember just over a month ago when the Texans were the best team in the AFC? With the best defense in the league? Yeah, I’m having a little bit of trouble recalling that too. It seems just a bit far-fetched right about now.

It wasn’t quite like the first time around, but the Texans still gave up 40 points, J.J. Watt still didn’t bat a pass, Rob Gronkowski still ended up missing the majority of the game (more on that a little bit later) and the Patriots still scored 40-plus points. They also won and believe it or not, it is the first time in the Brady-Belichick era that the team has won a playoff game that was a rematch of a regular season game (1-6).

In the final game of the weekend, Tom Brady became the winningest quarterback in NFL history as he passed his idol Joe Montana with his 17th career postseason victory to set up a rematch with the Ravens at Gillette Stadium on Sunday following the 41-28 victory.

The Texans won the toss and, perhaps to the delight of the Patriots, elected to receive as the temperature reached 51 degrees in a January heat wave in Foxboro. The teams were each at full strength and it was time to see whether the game five weeks ago was a fluke or a preview.

What happened when the ball came down in the hands of Danieal Manning six yards deep in the endzone shocked everybody, however. After taking over the kick return duties just last week, he found a seam and took off running. It looked like he was gone until Devin McCourty caught him from behind at the 12-yard line of New England.

The Pats defense held and after fullback James Casey dropped a likely touchdown pass, Houston was forced to kick a field goal, which was good from 27 yards out by Shayne Graham. Following just eight yards on their first drive, however, Zoltan Mesko was on the field as the Patriots went three-and-out, but a monster punt and good coverage set Houston up back at their own 17-yard line.

Houston punted the ball back, but on a second-and-long, Gronkowski landed on his injured left arm while trying to catch a pass and looked to be in some serious pain. A conversion on third and 11 kept the drive going, but then Wes Welker, who took a big hit to move the chains on the previous third down, dropped a relatively easy pass on third and eight and the Texans got the ball back, still leading 3-0 with 5:49 left as Gronkowski went to the locker room. Again, Houston punted though after Aqib Talib nearly picked off a second-down pass and Arian Foster dropped one on third down.

Brady then led the Pats on a 65-yard drive following a poor punt by Donnie Jones. The six-play drive utilized Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen for five of the plays. A 13-yard reception by Ridley and a 25-yarder by Vereen set them up in the red zone. Vereen then took it in from a yard out and gave the Patriots the lead with 1:28 left in the first on the first postseason rushing touchdown of his career. After kicking the extra point, Stephen Gostkowski made sure to get all of the ball on the kickoff to keep Manning from running another one back deep into their territory. New England led 7-3 after one.

Houston picked up a few yards, but stalled again. Jones’ third punt of the day gave New England the ball back, but a good-looking drive stalled when Brandon Lloyd made a pretty big mistake in his first playoff game. He was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the red zone for throwing the ball at the official with a bit too much force, but again, Vereen looked very solid, picking up 48 yards on the drive, including a 22-yard run and a six-yard run on third and two in which he made Connor Barwin look pretty foolish. Gostkowski nailed a 37-yard field goal to extend the home team’s lead to 10-3 with just over 10 minutes left in the half.

Same story on the next Houston drive. After a solid start and the first good run from Foster on the day, Dont’a Hightower blew up a play in the backfield and Steve Gregory made a nice open-field tackle on third and 12 to force another punt. Gregory also made another play earlier in the drive to kill a little momentum with a pass break-up following a 24-yard hook-up between Matt Schaub and DeVier Posey.

With a chance to really grab momentum, the Patriots did just that with an 80-yard touchdown drive that included a 13-yard reception by Welker on third and 11 and a 47-yard, one-handed catch by the little guy to set up first and goal. Again, Vereen got into the endzone, this time on a Brady pass from eight yards out and just like that, it was 17-3 Patriots. Lloyd caught the first pass of his postseason career for seven yards earlier in the drive and Welker became the team’s all-time leader in playoff receptions on the 47-yarder. He broke Troy Brown‘s old record of 58 and at the end of the game, had 61.

Another impressive kick return from Manning forced Gostkowski to try to stop him, but he committed a horse-collar tackle that set the Texans up at the New England 47-yard line. They then rode Foster, who, on five carries in five plays, got the first Texans touchdown of the day. After review, the touchdown was confirmed and the New England lead was cut to seven. Foster now has scored a rushing touchdown in all four of his career playoff games.

It was just the third touchdown for the Texans in their last 13 red zone appearances. With just over a minute left, Brady and the Patriots took the field, but like Peyton Manning the night before, appeared content to get to the next quarter. He was hit again on third down and Houston got the ball back with 24 seconds left and three timeouts. Mesko’s punt was nearly blocked and the Texans set up at their own 38-yard line.

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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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BST&N’s Patriots End Of Season Awards

With the regular season coming to its annual close and the Patriots enjoying yet another successful year, it’s time to give out some hardware. Well, not real hardware. But fictional, invisible hardware based on the performances of some of the members of this year’s team.

Players in all phases of the game stepped up this season and made it one worth remembering. It is time to reward the improvements that the team made following their heartbreaking Super Bowl loss nearly 11 months ago.

Special Teams Player of the Year: My first award goes to special teams captain and two-time Pro Bowler Matthew Slater. In 16 games this season, Slater has continued his role as gunner on the punt team as well as seeing a bit of action in the kick return game. A member of all four special teams units, he made 19 tackles while playing in every game for the second straight season. His biggest game of the year came in the loss to Seattle in which he made three special teams tackles on the afternoon. He had the third-highest tackles of any non-regular Patriots defender.

Matthew Slater quietly had another successful year on special teams for the Patriots.

Matthew Slater (18) quietly had another successful year on special teams for the Patriots.

Walter Payton (Patriots) Man of the Year: This award annually rewards the player that best exemplifies the importance of not only being a good player on the field, but a better person off of it. Almost every week since he has arrived in New England in 2010, punter Zoltan Mesko has been spotted doing various projects around the community or just visiting children who might need their days brightened. He has taken the ‘Community Tuesday’ concept to a new level while continuing to be one of the best punters in the league for the third straight season. Some of his efforts over the past year have included visits to Children’s Hospital Boston, an appearance at a youth triathlon and some quality time spent with Hungarian fans.

Zoltan Mesko has gone above and beyond to give back to the community during his time with the Patriots.

Zoltan Mesko has gone above and beyond to give back to the community during his time with the Patriots.

Comeback Player of the Year: We all remember the ankle injury suffered by tight end Rob Gronkowski in last year’s AFC Championship game win over the Ravens. He wasn’t the same in the Super Bowl, but after offseason surgery and a rigorous rehab routine, Gronk returned for 2012 and looked like he never went down. The huge tight end caught 55 passes for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns while only playing in 11 games this season because of a broken forearm. He was elected as the AFC’s starting tight end in his second straight Pro Bowl and showed no signs of having ever sustained the injury. In his second return of the season, Gronk caught two passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in the 28-0 win over the Dolphins.

Rob Gronkowski came back after this injury slowed him down in last year's playoffs only to get hurt again this year, but still put up huge numbers.

Rob Gronkowski came back after this injury slowed him down in last year’s playoffs only to get hurt again this year, but he still put up huge numbers.

Unsung Hero: Balance on offense is something that every professional football team strives to achieve. With all the passing weapons that this team has, it certainly would have been easy, as it had been it recent years, to only throw the ball and abandon the run. Stevan Ridley made sure that would not happen, however, as he had an incredibly strong sophomore season, leading the team in rush yards with 1,263 and finishing seventh in the league. In his rookie season, he showed signs, but really took his game to the next level this year and the balance that was brought back to the Patriots’ play calling did wonders for them both on the scoreboard and in the win column. Ridley definitely performed above most of the expectations set for him entering the 2012 season. His 12 total touchdowns, including two on Sunday were tied for third in the league.

Stevan Ridley found the endzone ... timee this season, helping the Patriots return to the playoffs.

Stevan Ridley found the endzone 12 timee this season, helping the Patriots return to the playoffs.

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Early Struggles Doom Patriots As 2nd Half Surge Not Enough

Down and (eventually) out: Tom Brady couldn't quite lead his team to a comeback for the ages as the mistakes mounted up in Foxboro.

Down and (eventually) out: Tom Brady couldn’t quite lead his team to a comeback for the ages as the mistakes mounted up in Foxboro.

Usually, 34 points is enough to win you a game.

Although, professional football games usually aren’t this ugly.

And the old adage lives on: good defense usually beats good offense.

That was not the case Sunday night, however, as this game was anything but usual. The league’s best offense met the league’s best defense in a primetime matchup at the stadium where the first-place Patriots have been unbeatable during the last three winters. The 9-3-1 San Francisco 49ers made the cross-country trip to the home of the 10-3 New England Patriots and, though they undoubtedly got nervous in the 2nd half, escaped with a 41-34 win over the three-time champs.

“Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a team is to spend all week having everyone tell you you’re going to win the Super Bowl.”  It seems, at least right now, that this sentiment offered by Al Michaels during the broadcast last night, is right on the money.

In the nastiest of weather conditions (35 degrees and raining), which undoubtedly affected both teams, the 49ers came out flying and looked to definitely have the edge in the first 10 minutes of the game. As the president addressed the nation, the 49ers offense went to work.

The home team got the ball first as the rain poured down and got right into their no-huddle offense. After a 1st down completion to Brandon Lloyd, Stevan Ridley put the ball on the ground, but luckily for the Pats, Ridley’s backside was ruled down by the officials. On the next play, however, Ridley was sent backwards and less than a minute into the game, the stingy 49ers defense had forced a three-and-out on the league’s best offense and provided a sign of things to come.

Colin Kaepernick wasted no time after the three-and-out as he came out firing and picked up first downs on three consecutive throws. On the sixth play of the drive, Kaepernick hit former Patriot Randy Moss with a 24-yard pass for the touchdown as the crowd in Foxboro sat in shock at the start. San Fran marched 63 yards in 2:40 for the touchdown on 3rd & 7. It was Moss’ 156th career touchdown – second all-time.

Aldon Smith then showed why he has a chance to set the single-season sacks record as he got to Tom Brady twice on the next drive, though he was unable to bring him down either time. The San Francisco defense forced a second straight punt to open the night. The weather then helped the home team out as Kaepernick couldn’t handle the snap on 3rd & 1, but did cover it up and the team was able to punt it away.

A holding call on Mike Rivera on the return gave New England the ball at their own 20 and Brady threw up what may have been an ill-advised attempt that was picked off by Carlos Rogers, who returned it 53 yards to the 5-yard line of the Patriots. Thankfully, Delanie Walker returned the favor by fumbling at the New England three and after review, the fumble stood. Steve Gregory forced the fumble and Aqib Talib got the recovery. Brady made the touchdown-saving tackle (which ended up being huge) on Rogers to keep him on the right side of the goal line following his first interception in 230 pass attempts at home. Another three-and-out resulted, however, and Zoltan Mesko, who was very busy in the 1st half, entered the game for the third time.

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