Patriots Playoff Push

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

January 19th, 2014 at 7:04 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

Patriots Broncos FootballFor the second year in a row, the Patriots have fought their way to the AFC Championship but came up short in the end. Peyton and the Broncos proved too resilient, and earned their spot in the Super Bowl with a 26-16 win in Denver.

After two stellar performances from the New England running backs, the group was held to a measly 64 yards combined on the ground. The lone rushing touchdown came from Tom Brady, who also had only one passing touchdown to Julian Edelman.

The Patriots defense didn’t fare much better, allowing Manning to throw for 400 yards even and two touchdowns.

As for Brady vs. Manning, Tom still retains a 10-5 overall record against Peyton, but it’s now 2-2 in the postseason. In their past three playoff matchups, whichever team came out victorious wound up winning it all, so we’ll see if that trend continues on February 2.

New England now heads back home to start looking ahead to next season, while Denver awaits the outcome of the NFC Championship between the Seahawks and 49ers.


Patriots continue to struggle

January 19th, 2014 at 5:19 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

Going into this game my biggest concern was New England’s defense against Denver’s monstrous offense, but the story of this game so far is the Patriots’ struggles on offense.

It looks like Brady is having a hard time adjusting to Denver’s notoriously thin air, as he’s overthrown just about every pass beyond 10 yards. His 142 passing yards to this point have been an amalgamation of short passes to Vereen and his slot receivers.

The Patriots’ run game hasn’t fared much better, putting up a collective 39 yards between three running backs and a 2-yard run from Brady.

On the other hand Peyton Manning looks more comfortable with each passing drive. He’s gotten into a rhythm with his team of receivers, and the Patriots’ defense is having a hard time keeping up.


Offenses settle in

January 19th, 2014 at 4:32 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

After a nearly scoreless first quarter, the Patriots’ and Broncos’ offensive squads began to wake up in the second. Peyton continued to pick apart New England’s secondary, utilizing his bevy of targets to rack up 214 passing yards and one touchdown to TE Jacob Tamme.

The Patriots were only able to put up 3 points against the Broncos, but there were signs of life from Brady and the boys. Shane Vereen was a welcome sight on the field after missing several weeks with a groin injury. He was actually New England’s leading receiver in the first half, pulling in 2 catches for 37 yards.

Patriots Broncos FootballSpeaking of injuries, the Patriots may have suffered a game-changing loss in shutdown corner Aqib Talib, who left the field after a collision with Denver WR Eric Decker.

The number that stands out the most to me at this point in the game is 10. New England trails 13-3 at the half, but that’s nothing compared to the 24 they were down by when they played Denver in Week 12. And we all know what happened in the second half of that game.

Regardless, the Patriots have some serious adjustments to make in the locker room, especially since the Broncos will have the ball to start the second half.


And it begins

January 19th, 2014 at 3:49 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

It was apparent right from these start that these teams know each other well. New England and Denver both did their homework and were well prepared for this showdown.

Both defenses were able to force some punts, but Manning had the edge over Brady in terms of passing in the first quarter, and was able to get close enough to generate the game’s only points in a 27-yard Matt Prater field goal. The scoring was surprisingly nonexistent early on though, especially in a game with an over/under of 56.5.

Patriots Broncos Football

For the most part Manning was able to pick apart the Patriots’ secondary, who will absolutely have to tighten up their game if they want to come out of this on top. The Broncos have done a great job so far in shutting down the New England running attack, which has really carried the Patriots in their last two victories.


It’s a Great Day for Football

January 19th, 2014 at 12:19 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

Our long week of waiting has finally come to a close, and we’re now just hours away from the AFC Championship grudge match. You’ve read all the headlines: Patriots vs. Broncos. Brady vs. Manning. Welker vs. His Former Teammates. 11 Players from One Team vs. 11 Players from the Other Team. So what are the playing conditions looking like in Denver today?

Good news sports fans, because in terms of weather it’s looking like a glorious day for football. According to my inside sources, we’re looking at sunny with a high of 60 degrees and 0% chance of rain. The football gods must be looking down on the Mile High City with favor after the conditions both teams had to put up with last week.

Don’t forget to check back in during the game since we’ll be live blogging, breaking down some stats and analyzing the game as it progresses, because that’s what we like to do.


Robert Kraft shows up at Pats Party

January 18th, 2014 at 10:38 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft showed his support to Patriot fans at a fan party at a Denver Restaurant tonight. Kraft raffled off tickets and memorabilia. He says he likes the quiet confidence of this Patriots team.


Pats fans in Denver

January 18th, 2014 at 6:12 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

We stopped by a Patriots bar today and even met a fan from Cranston. Pats fans getting it done in enemy territory!

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A Mile High

January 17th, 2014 at 5:37 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

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Beautiful day in Denver. We are LIVE outside Sports Authority Field at Mile High…Patriots scheduled to land in Denver this evening. Great buzz in the city.


Arrived in Denver

January 17th, 2014 at 1:35 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

We just arrived into Denver, there is clearly a Broncos theme at the airport

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Brady Returns to Practice

January 17th, 2014 at 9:17 am by under Patriots Playoff Push

Tom BradyNew England fans received some potentially devastating news Wednesday when QB Tom Brady was sent home from practice because of illness and pain in his right shoulder just days before the AFC Championship.

Patriot nation can rest easy now, as the Golden Boy of Foxboro made his return to the practice field Thursday.

Brady is no stranger to playing through sickness though, let’s not forget he led the Patriots to a victory over the Steelers in the 2005 AFC title game with a fever of 103.

The team continues to prepare for their rematch with Peyton and the Broncos, and this afternoon they’ll be boarding a plane to the Mile High City.

Kickoff for the AFC Championship is Sunday at 3 p.m. Stick around afterwards for our Post-Game Wrap, we’ll have former New England RB Sammy Morris in studio to break down the game.


Brady v Manning

January 16th, 2014 at 5:33 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push
Brady v Manning

Brady v Manning Sunday, January 19

The fever is high for the Brady versus Manning showdown on Sunday.  There are storylines abound for this AFC Championship game–Wes Welker, Pats/Denver rivalry, Pats unsuccessful record at Mile High, the teams’ running games, coaches chess match, and the list goes on–but none come close to the way history will be written on this game.  This one is Brady versus Manning.  Period.  Despite which players from the sport with the largest rosters make a critical impact or error, the outcome of the game will still simply be Brady won or Peyton won.  For Peyton it will validate him as a champion–if he loses this, his legacy is sure to be vastly different. For our prodigal #12, it will cement his legacy in elite greatness as he is the underdog according to Vegas in this one.  Brady v Manning for the 15th time.  Quite possibly the last duel of two of the NFL’s greatest QBs. Brady v Manning. That’s how this one is labeled and how it will stay. Can’t wait to watch a sweet slice of history get made on Sunday.

Timeline: Brady vs. Manning Saga


One Down, Two to Go

January 12th, 2014 at 12:05 am by under Patriots Playoff Push

This is starting to become routine to say: The Patriots have made it to the AFC Championship Game. It’s the eighth time the team has made it there in the past 13 seasons, and the third in three years.

It may have been brutally rainy and windy, but New England was able to call upon the power of their run game to lead them to a 43-22 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Andrew Luck, Rob NinkovichThe Pats’ running game came up huge tonight. LeGarrette Blount may have outdone himself in Week 18, but against the Colts he managed to outdo himself even further, racking up 166 yards and a ferocious 4 touchdowns. Ridley rounded out the Patriots’ six rushing touchdowns with two of his own, along with 52 yards on the ground.

New England can suddenly call themselves Chargers fans, since a San Diego victory tomorrow means another game at home for the Patriots. If Denver comes out on top, the Pats will have to get themselves ready for a bitter rematch with Peyton and his Broncos.


Colts Close the Gap

January 11th, 2014 at 10:38 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

The Patriots started the second half with another 3-and-out, again punting to a resilient Colts team. Luck led his team on another solid drive, capping it off with another Vinatieri field goal to make it 21-15. The New England defense did a great job keeping Indy out of the end zone, they were 0-2 in the red zone with two field goals.

Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee

The Patriots on the other hand were 3-for-3 in the red zone, and they sought to keep it going on the following drive. On a deep throw to Julian Edelman Indianapolis committed their first penalty, a costly pass interference call that put New England on the 5 yard line.

After a pair of unsuccessful attempts at the end zone, Patriots running back Stevan Ridley ran it in for the team’s fourth rushing touchdown of the game, loudly proclaiming “Blount’s not the only running back who can score!” (citation needed) New England elected to try for 2 to put themselves up by two touchdowns, and were able to do so with another Ridley run.

The Colts were down, but far from out. They made quick work of their next drive with a 46-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton, followed by a 35-yard touchdown pass to LaVon Brazill, his second of the game.


No stopping Blount

January 11th, 2014 at 9:52 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

The Patriots started the second quarter in pursuit of another score. It may not have been the prettiest of drives but they managed to make it into the red zone, and finished it off with LeGarrette “Touchdown Magnet” Blount leaping over defenders from two yards out for a touchdown, his fifth in the past two games.

LeGarrette Blount

The Patriots and Colts took more advantage of their running backs in the second quarter as the rain continued to fall in Foxboro. Both defenses stood their ground though and didn’t allow for any breakout runs.

The Colts were able to close the gap first with a 36-yard field goal from former Patriots standout Adam Vinatieri, then again after New England punter Ryan Allen bobbled a snap and was hit hard trying to recover, sending the ball into the end zone for a safety.

Indy looked like they had another good drive in them until Andrew pressed his Luck by throwing to RB Stanley Havili, who bobbled it right into the hands of LB Dont’a Hightower. Unfortunately it was all for naught, and the Patriots went 3-and-out on their final chance to score.

The teams headed into the locker rooms with a lot to be happy about, but both have some drying off to do and some adjustments to make before the second half. New England leads 21-12.


Rain? No problem.

January 11th, 2014 at 8:58 pm by under General Talk, Patriots Playoff Push

Tom Brady

It’s a rainy and windy night at Gillette Stadium, but you wouldn’t know it looking at the stat lines of the Patriots and Colts as they battle for a spot in the AFC championship game. Both teams came out firing on all cylinders with no regard for the wet conditions. Rather than rely mostly on their run games as would be expected, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck felt confident enough to put their arms to work.

It proved costly to Luck early on, as he was picked off by Alfonzo Dennard during the opening drive. Dennard nearly took it in for six but stepped out of bounds at the 2 yard line. Instead the offense took over and LeGarrette Blount continued his hot streak, scoring with ease after a handoff from Brady.

For Brady it was business as usual, finding Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola as the Patriots made their way down the field. Blount made it clear he enjoyed scoring a pair of touchdowns two weeks ago by taking it to the house for a second time this evening.

Andrew Luck’s passing game looked a little shaky early on, but it didn’t take long for him to settle in. The Colts were able engineer a solid drive capped off by a 38-yard strike to wideout LaVon Brazill, cutting the Patriots lead in half.


Heading to Foxboro

January 11th, 2014 at 3:35 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

Driving up to Foxboro in the torrential downpour. Big news already today regarding Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. He was placed on Injured Reserve this week for his bad knee but ESPN is reporting it’s not just the injury that caused the IR move. Spikes was reportedly late for a team practice and so the move was partially a disciplinary move, according to the report.

More from Gillette shortly!

-Yianni


Will injuries play a factor?

January 11th, 2014 at 12:37 pm by under General Talk, Patriots Playoff Push

Looking back on the Patriots’ 2013 season, one of the biggest things that sticks in my mind is the injuries they’ve had to deal with. Their defense took a huge hit (pun certainly intended) when the rock upon which it is built, Vince Wilfork, suffered a season-ending tear to his Achilles tendon in the team’s win against the Falcons in Week 4. Jerod Mayo

Circumstances continued their downhill slope just two weeks later when Jerod Mayo, their defensive quarterback, tore a pectoral muscle against the Saints and was also given a long-term spot on the sideline. Things weren’t looking so bad though, since the following week Brady’s favorite target was cleared to play. After sitting out several games following multiple surgeries to his forearm and back, Rob Gronkowski was back in business. It was great seeing him confound and punish defenses again, that is until Week 14 against the Browns when he tore both the ACL and MCL in his right knee. He, too, was done for the season. Not to mention a laundry list of other injuries to players like Sebastian Vollmer, Shane Vereen, Adrian Wilson, and Wilfork’s replacement, Tommy Kelly.

Despite all those injuries, the Pats were able to work with what they had and find ways to win, which led to a successful 12-4 season, a first-week bye in the playoffs, and home field advantage in the AFC divisional matchup against the Colts.

Which brings me back to my original point: Will injuries play a factor?

No.

Trying to find proportional replacements for guys like Wilfork, Mayo, and Gronk is a fool’s errand, but what they can be replaced with is a will to win. Throughout the Belichick-Brady era, the Patriots have been more than successful in pushing players to perform past their potential, which is why you see guys like LeGarrette Blount posting 344 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns in one game. It’s why this is their fifth playoff run in a row. It’s why this season they’ve been able to beat teams much better than the Colts, and it’s the reason they’ll be able to band together and earn a spot in the AFC Championship.


Rainy, windy, but not too cold at Gillette tonight

January 11th, 2014 at 9:27 am by under Patriots Playoff Push

It’s game day in New England.

The Patriots and Colts will take the field around 10 hours from now, and Eyewitness News meteorologist Pete Mangione wants to make sure fans know what kind of weather they should expect.

A quick roundup: It shouldn’t be too cold in Foxborough tonight, but it will be rainy and very, very windy. The wind played a huge factor in the Patriots’ win over the Broncos earlier this season… so coaches’ decisions after coin flips should be interesting.

A long roundup: Head over to Pete’s blog post on Tony’s Pinpoint Weather Blog. He lays out the projected weather hour-by-hour.

 


And so it begins…

January 10th, 2014 at 5:54 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

Welcome to another edition of what seems to be an annual Eyewitness Sports Patriots Playoff Push blog.

As you may remember, we left off last year on a somber note. Tom Brady and the Pats ended their season earlier than they would have liked, losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Conference Championship.

Now, the Pats are back in the postseason for the fifth straight year, searching for their first Super Bowl victory since 2004.

We at Eyewitness News and WPRI.com will be following the Patriots throughout their entire stay in the postseason. Click this link for the Playoff Push landing page, which is where you will be able to find all kinds of photo galleries (both professional shots of in-game action and unprofessional shots of babies holding footballs), post-game recaps (those will be on television as well. You should watch them there), injury reports, and much more.

The road begins tomorrow night in Foxborough against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.

That game will air on WPRI 12, so don’t change the channel during commercials – you might miss some great promos featuring Tim White’s scowling, investigative face.

We’ll be there, fighting through the rain, snapping pictures, tweeting Tweets and blogging away. If you see us in the parking lot, be sure to come over and say hello. If you’re watching from home, feel free to take out your phone and shoot us a picture of your Patriots Pride via our ReportIt application. And if you don’t like football, that’s okay. We’ll have plenty of other news you can thumb through on WPRI.com while your sports-fan friends glue themselves to their televisions.

We’re looking forward to covering the playoffs, and we hope to hear from you soon.

“Go Patriots,” several people in Southern New England will exclaim tomorrow tonight.

Not me, though. That would be biased.


That’s All She Wrote

January 20th, 2013 at 10:25 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

A collective sigh has been heaved across Patriots nation. New England’s beloved football team has been defeated by the Baltimore Ravens, 28-13. Joe Flacco and the rest of the Ravens completely took over the game in the fourth quarter and never looked back. Super Bowl 47 will now be the final game for legendary LB Ray Lewis, as his 17-year career comes to a close. The game also sets up a battle in the bayou between the brothers Harbaugh, as 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh led his team past the Falcons earlier today.

Patriots QB Tom Brady, who throughout his career as a starter has been known for his strength late in the game, completely fell apart in the fourth quarter. On paper he had a pretty decent game, going 29-for-54 for320 yards and a touchdown, but the two interceptions he threw in the final quarter completely derailed his team’s offensive efforts. Flacco, on the other hand, netted 240 yards and 3 TDs, resulting in a 106.2 QB rating, but it was his leadership late in the game that was the real story. He was fearless up until the very end and lead his team to the promised land.

Outside of the quarterbacks, the two standout offensive performers were both wide receivers – Wes Welker of the Patriots and Anquan Boldin of the Ravens. Welker picked up 117 yards and a touchdown on 8 receptions, while Boldin secured two TDs and 60 yards on a mere 5 receptions.

As the Ravens set their sights on the 49ers, the Patriots have no choice but to look forward to next year. With  young players like Chandler Jones, Stevan Ridley and Dont’a Hightower showing loads of promise, they’ll no doubt be back in the mix, using the taste of tonight’s loss as motivation to continue the quest for their fourth Super Bowl.


Turnovers Not a Factor So Far

January 20th, 2013 at 9:00 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

Both the Patriots and the Ravens have keep a tight grip on the football through the first three quarters, as there has not been a single interception or fumble on either side. That being said, the first team to upset that balance could very well put themselves out of this very close game.

Baltimore was able to recapture the lead after a 5-yard TD pass from Joe Flacco to TE Dennis Pitta, and went into the fourth quarter up 14-13. With the continued absence of Chung and Talib, the Patriots secondary is showing some holes, which are being taken advantage of by the Ravens offense. Flacco has upped his stats by throwing 17-for-30 for a touchdown and 204 yards, overtaking Brady’s 18-for-32, 182-yard and one-touchdown performance. (UPDATE: Not five seconds after posting this, Flacco improved to 207 yards and 2 touchdowns with a 3-yard pass to WR Anquan Boldin.)


Picking Apart the Defenses

January 20th, 2013 at 8:11 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

The second quarter of the AFC Championship showed a stark contrast from the first. Both offenses showed signs of starting to figure out the other team’s defense, and were able to capitalize from it in efficient fashion. The Ravens completed a 90-yard, 5:51 drive with a 2-yard Ray Rice touchdown, and the Patriots immediately answered with a 79-yard, 5:10 drive, capped off by a 1-yard TD pass from Tom Brady to Wes Welker.

The first half was business as usual for Brady, who completed 14 for 24 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target so far has been TE Aaron Hernandez, who’s already pulled in 7 receptions for 67 yards.

Injuries to the Patriots’ defense could prove harmful to the team’s chances. Throughout the first half, New England saw DT Kyle Love, CB Aqib Talib and S Patrick Chung go down, all of which with questionable returns at this point.

Even though both teams looked very strong in the first half, there’s one single stat that could prove to be the most important: Tom Brady is 67-0 at home when going into the second half with a lead. 67-0. Yeah.


Defense Wins Championships

January 20th, 2013 at 7:25 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

That old sporting adage came to the forefront during the first quarter of the AFC Championship, as the defenses of both the Patriots and the Ravens were able to keep scoring to a minimum. The Patriots defensive unit held Joe Flacco and the Ravens to only 43 yards and two first downs, as New England ended the quarter with a 3-0 lead. The Patriots offense fared slightly better, racking up 114 total yards, though only had a Stephen Gostkowski field goal to show for it. The Patriots also personified another old adage, “the best defense is a good offense”, by controlling the football for 10:30. The Ravens will have a tough time scoring if they can’t keep the offense on the field.


Countdown to Kickoff

January 20th, 2013 at 6:23 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

The sun is going down, temperatures are falling, and the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens have taken the field for warm-ups here at Gillette Stadium. Out in the parking lot, fans of both teams could be seen getting riled up for this AFC Championship rematch. (Click here for Photo Gallery) Based on the recent history between these two teams, it’s sure to be a fierce battle up until the very last second. Young stars on both sides of the ball will be out to prove they belong in such an elite game, while seasoned veterans like Tom Brady and Ray Lewis will be fighting to continue their success and lead their team to the big dance in New Orleans.

Tensions are already running extremely high on the field as the teams prepare for battle. Ray Lewis just rallied the Ravens with one of his patented and powerful pregame speeches, potentially the last of his storied career. One notable matchup on the field tonight is that of Baltimore DE Arthur Jones and his younger brother, Patriots rookie DE Chandler Jones. It’ll be the second time this season that the two brothers have been on opposite sides of the field, after the Ravens edged the Patriots back in week 3 by a score of 31-30. Expect big games out of both siblings as they strive to prove who’s the best in the family.

Be sure to check back in throughout the game for updates and analysis straight from the source. Speaking of updates, the 49ers just secured a trip to the Super Bowl by defeating the Falcons, 28-24, in a very hard-fought game. San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh has punched his ticket to New Orleans, meaning the championship could turn into a family affair if the Ravens and their head coach, big brother John Harbaugh, bring their A-game against the Pats.


Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold

January 19th, 2013 at 9:40 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

Less than a day remains until the Patriots and Ravens duke it out, and even though the weather’s looking to be quite chilly, I don’t think it’ll play much of a factor. The forecast is calling for temperatures dropping into the 20s, with a wind chill down in the teens during the game.

As temperatures have been descending all week, both teams have been preparing to deal with the icy conditions. In a press conference Friday, QB Tom Brady said: “Coach tries to always get us acclimated to the conditions. We’ve practiced in the stadium every Friday, so it was good to be out there and try to simulate what it will be like on Sunday. I was cold out today though.” The Patriots have seen success in cold weather at home in the past, but it usually only matters when the visiting team is coming from sunny California or Florida. The city of Baltimore has been experiencing similar winter weather as of late, and also, as I’ve been saying, this is the NFL playoffs. Both teams are going to be hungry, and anything can happen. Patriots safety Patrick Chung summed it up well on Friday: “Of course we are ready to go. That is kind of our advantage in the cold, but they are going to be here, ready to play, so the weather really means nothing.”

Be sure to check back in on Sunday, I’ll once again be providing info from a bird’s eye view in the press box at Gillette Stadium. Go Pats!


The Boys are Back in Town

January 18th, 2013 at 11:38 am by under Patriots Playoff Push

Media Reps for the Patriots announced Friday that a pair of familiar faces will be given a special honor at the AFC Championship in Foxboro Sunday. Long-time New England RB Kevin Faulk and OT Matt Light will be honorary captains for the game. Both players spent their entire careers with the Patriots, and were integral factors in the team’s astounding success.

Light retired in May of 2012 after 11 years with the team.  He also has the distinction of being one of only five players to have started in five Super Bowls, a list that also includes the man he was paid to protect, Tom Brady. Faulk spent 13 years with the Patriots, and was known throughout New England as one of the most reliable men on the field, a true team player. He performed multiple roles for the team and remains New England’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards and kickoff return yards.

The two will be joined by 7-year-old Patriots fan and NFL Punt, Pass & Kick national champion Matiwos Rumley of Hebron, Conn.


Patriots vs. Ravens By the Numbers

January 16th, 2013 at 4:01 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

Now that the honeymoon period is over following the Patriots AFC Divisional victory over the Texans, the team is setting their sights on the Ravens. Despite having lost 31-30 to Baltimore back in week 3 on a last-second Justin Tucker field goal, New England has the necessary weapons to take this game, not to mention the fact they have home field advantage, they have a very successful playoff history under Bill Belichick, and the replacement refs were on the field that week. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that last part to resurface the sheer frustration football fans were forced to endure early in the season.

The Patriots and Ravens match up very well against each other, and for each fault one team has, the other has a separate strength. On a very base level, New England has a stronger offense. According to ESPN, they’ve collected over 1,000 yards more than Baltimore this year and have scored 59 touchdowns, compared to Baltimore’s 39. The Patriots also have a very impressive turnover ratio of +25, whereas the Ravens have an impressive, but not nearly as impressive +9 for 2012.

The stark differences between Tom Brady and Joe Flacco can be spotted just by watching a game involving either quarterback, and the stats only strengthen that fact. Tom tossed 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns more then Flacco this season, not to mention he gave up a mere 10 turnovers (8 interceptions and 2 fumbles) compared to Flacco’s 19 (10 picks, 9 fumbles).

As for the rushing game, the two teams are pretty evenly matched, which may come as a surprise to you. Ravens RB Ray Rice, who’s considered a premier running back in the NFL, ran for 1,143 yards and 9 touchdowns this year. Pats RB Stevan Ridley, still considered an up-and-comer, ran for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, and both had a respectable average of 4.4 yards per carry. The Ravens have a stronger second man in Bernard Pierce (532 yds, 3 tds), but after him lies a substantial dropoff. The Patriots have a much deeper and more versatile bench, with the three backs behind Ridley rushing for more than 250 yards and multiple touchdowns apiece. In total, New England rushed for 2,184 yards this year, and Baltimore racked up 1,901.

In terms of receiving, the Patriots definitely have the edge, mostly due to the lethal combination of Brady and Welker. The Ravens aren’t exactly slouches in that fashion, though Anquan Boldin pretty muc just put up the numbers you’d expect out of him, third-year TE Dennis Pitta improved but is still developing as a player, and Torrey Smith saw decent numbers, but was far from the standout WR many expected him to be and barely improved upon his rookie year stats.

The defensive side of the ball tips slightly in Baltimore’s favor, if only due to consistency. New England has had its issues this year on defense, but really started to put it together as the season went on. The Ravens held opponents to less passing yards by a few hundred, though the Patriots managed to pull down 20 picks to the Ravens’ 13, and both teams recorded 37 sacks this season. New England showed a stronger rush defense by holding opponents to only 1,630 yards compared to Baltimore’s 1,965, but then again, it would be hard to run against any team that had Vince Wilfork in the trenches. The tipping point, though, is the Ravens’ fearsome linebacker and defensive leader, Ray Lewis. He’s calling it quits at the end of this season, so expect to see him playing with no abandon since every game is now his last.

Numbers aside, the last three games between these two teams have come down to a field goal or less, so a vicious battle will surely be fought on the grounds of Gillette this Sunday.


Houston, We Have a Problem

January 13th, 2013 at 8:21 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

It’s all over, the fat lady is singing. The Patriots continue their Belichick-era playoff success by crusing to a 41-28 victory over the Texans, securing their place in the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens.  This will mark the third match-up against the Ravens in the playoffs since 2009,  in which the Patriots have gone 1-1.

Tonight’s game was a true team effort on the part of the Patriots, with great performances on both sides of the ball. QB Tom Brady surpassed his boyhood idol Joe Montana as the winningest quarterback in postseason play, and tonight went 25-for-40 while racking up 344 yards and 3 touchdowns. WR Wes Welker had a heck of a day, pulling in 8 receptions for 131 yards, and TE Aaron Hernandez made up for Gronk’s absence by grabbing 85 yards on 6 catches. The team’s two-headed running attack of Ridley and Vereen fought for a combined 123 yards on 22 attempts, with one rushing touchdown apiece. (Vereen also had 2 receiving TDs, tying Curtis Martin for the most touchdowns in a Patriots postseason game)

The Patriots defense was able to limit Texans RB Arian Foster to only 90 yards, while SS Steve Gregory and CB Aqib Talib recorded 10 tackles apiece as they worked to defend the high-powered Texans passing game.

Despite the great efforts put forth by the offense and the defense, the most glaring flaw for the Patriots was the performance of their special teams, specifically during kickoffs. On four attempts, Houston’s Danieal Manning AVERAGED 54 yards per return. If the Patriots want to continue their success, they absolutely cannot allow that to happen.

The Patriots may have come out of this game with a win, but they didn’t do so unscathed. TE Rob Gronkowski left the field in the first quarter and never returned, and according to Pro Football News, he’s out for the rest of the postseason and will require more surgery on his injured forearm. They’ve been able to win games without him, but it’s certainly a shame to lose such a valuable asset. RB Danny Woodhead also left the game very early on due to a thumb injury. He was back on the sideline by the second quarter, though never returned to the field. The status of his injury has yet to be revealed.

I’ll end this last post by going back to some good news -  I get to keep this blog going! Big thanks to anyone that’s been keeping up with it, I’ll be posting daily until next Sunday’s game. Tell your friends.


No Surprises in Foxboro

January 13th, 2013 at 6:23 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

It’s been a hard-fought game at Gillette Stadium so far, with only four points separating the Patriots and Texans. New England went into the locker room leading by a score of 17-13, following a last-second 55-yard field goal by Texans kicker Shayne Graham.

The Patriots saw two  standout performances in the first half, coming from WR Wes Welker and RB Shane Vereen. Welker ended the half with 6 receptions for a whopping 120 yards, including a long of 47 yards. He also picked up his 59th career postseason reception with the Patriots, a new franchise record. Vereen recorded both one rushing and one receiving touchdown, picking up 3 receptions for 45 yards and leading the rushing attack with 40 yards on 6 attempts.

Still no word on the return of Woodhead or Gronk, hopefully we’ll see them back on the field in the second half. (UPDATE: NFL Network’s Albert Breer reports that Gronk is out for the game)

No surprises on the Houston side of the ball, with Arian Foster spearheading the rushing game with 57 yards and a touchdown, while Andre Johnson lead the Texans’ receiving with 4 catches for 54 yards.


First Quarter Thoughts

January 13th, 2013 at 5:23 pm by under Patriots Playoff Push

Quarter one is in the books here in Foxboro, with the Patriots coming out on top by a lead of 7-3. The 94-yard return by the Texans on the opening kickoff wasn’t exactly an ideal start, but the defense was able to hold them to only a field goal.

As I said in a previous post, injuries are a huge factor in these types of games, and the Pats already have two men down. RB Danny Woodhead has left the game with a thumb injury, and star TE Rob Gronkowski has suffered an arm injury, both are listed as questionable for return. It is unclear at this time if Gronk’s injury is related to his forearm injury that he’s been recovering from since the regular season game against the Colts.

The Patriots secondary has become an important presence early in the game, effectively shutting down Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and the rest of the Texans passing attack. They will certainly need to keep that up if they want to come out victorious.