Patriots assured No. 1 seed in AFC playoffs

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
The New England Patriots are assured the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs as a result of the Denver Broncos' 37-28 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. This gives the Patriots home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, regardless of what happens in their regular-season finale Sunday against the visiting Buffalo Bills.


How much should the Patriots' primary players (Brady, Gronk, Revis) play on Sunday?


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That turn of events should provide players a little extra bounce in their step as they return to work Tuesday, which is usually their day off. Coach Bill Belichick is giving them Christmas off instead.

"We flipped the schedule around this week and have a lot of work to do for our preparation," Belichick said earlier Monday on his weekly interview on sports-radio WEEI.

Belichick added that he didn't have plans to watch the Broncos-Bengals game, as all his focus was on preparations for the Bills. As a result of the Broncos' loss, the Patriots' finale against the Bills will remain at 1 p.m. ET instead of being moved to 4:25 p.m. ET.

Now the question will be how Belichick manages the playing time of certain players, possibly preserving them for the playoffs.

The Patriots have an 88-15 regular-season record at home since 2002, and an 11-3 playoff record at home over that span.

This is the fifth time the Patriots have earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The other times were in 2003 (beat Panthers in Super Bowl), 2007 (lost to Giants in Super Bowl), 2010 (lost to Jets in divisional round) and 2011 (lost to Giants in Super Bowl).
Picked-up pieces from fourth-quarter review of the Patriots' 17-16 win over the Jets:

1. Something we missed on Tom Brady's interception when it happened (7:26) was how the Jets effectively pick-stunted, with linebacker Demario Davis rushing directly into left tackle Nate Solder, which opened a rush lane for Jason Babin to loop inside and bear down on Brady. It looked like running back Shane Vereen was stepping up to account for Davis, but when Davis picked Solder instead, Vereen tried to readjust and impede Babin. The execution wasn't there, and the pressure forced the errant throw. Given the success of the play, it makes sense to think the Patriots will see more pick stunts in the weeks to come.

2. On Dont'a Hightower's sack (6:08), Bill Belichick credited defensive coordinator Matt Patricia for showing a look the Patriots hadn't previously shown in the game. The sack was critical, because it turned what could have been a 42-yard field goal into a 52-yarder and when the Jets attempted the field goal, it was ultimately tipped by Vince Wilfork. On the sack, the Patriots shifted the alignment of defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Chris Jones at the last moment over each shoulder of backup center Dalton Freeman, and brought Hightower and linebacker Jamie Collins up to the line of scrimmage over each guard. At the snap, Collins backed out from his alignment over left guard, but Hightower rushed over the right guard, which created some stress/confusion for the interior linemen, as well as running back Bilal Powell and right tackle Breno Giacomini. It was nicely schemed up as Hightower rushed through almost untouched. The Jets never got the ball back again.

3. The four-minute offense to run out the clock wasn't perfect, but on a day when the Patriots' offense wasn't at its best, it was the one thing that topped the list of things that ultimately went right for the unit. Danny Amendola's 7-yard catch-and-run on third-and-7 and Brandon Bolden's 17-yard run around right end on third-and-1 were the big plays. Solid blocks by receiver Brian Tyms (on Amendola's play) and fullback James Develin (on Bolden's) were critical, as was the Patriots' quick snap on Bolden's run. The quick-snap running game hasn't always been there for the Patriots this year, but it was at that critical moment.

4. Referee Brad Allen could have cleared up some confusion on the CBS broadcast and inside MetLife Stadium (where it was announced as fourth down after Amendola's catch) by decisively signaling it was first down, making sure the chains were moved, and even explaining over the microphone about the measurement. Former NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira also chimed in regarding the sequence.

5. We'll keep an eye on running back Jonas Gray and if he shows up on the injury report this week. Gray had his ankle taped during the game and played just four of his 16 snaps in the second half, with Brandon Bolden taking over for him on the critical four-minute offense series.

6. It looked like the Jets were going to try a pooch punt instead of the 52-yard field goal, as there was a direct snap to kicker Nick Folk at the same time the Jets burned a timeout. But after the timeout, the decision was made to kick the field goal. That was a costly turn of events for them.

7. With first-and-goal from the 2-yard line early in the quarter (14:24), the Patriots added two offensive linemen for a jumbo look and kept things simple with two Jonas Gray runs. It was close on the 1-yard touchdown run, but this is the first time we can remember the Patriots going with seven offensive linemen in a game this season. Running against the Jets' front in short-yardage situations required that extra power and size.

8. Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga's sack (8:48) just as easily could have gone to Chandler Jones, whose strong outside rush on D'Brickashaw Ferguson caused the initial pressure. We also took note of cornerback Darrelle Revis locking down receiver Jeremy Kerley on an in-breaking route at the goal-line (Revis seemed to be assigned more to Kerley after Percy Harvin left the game). Meanwhile, up front, Jones was the player most consistently generating pressure in this game.

9. Fullback John Conner's 26-yard catch up the right side (12:19) was obviously a missed assignment, and it looked like it might have been on linebacker Jamie Collins. But those are always hard to determine without knowing the defensive call or check. Dont'a Hightower also delayed his rush before surging through the defensive left side, and that could have been his assignment. Either way, it seems safe to say that the breakdown was at the linebacker level.
Picked-up pieces from third-quarter review of the New England Patriots' 17-16 win against the Jets:

S. Vereen
1. One of the main X's and O's adjustments for the Patriots came on their second drive of the third quarter when they stayed in the same personnel grouping for all 12 snaps and upped the tempo. The grouping had receivers Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright, and running back Shane Vereen. There seemed to be a concerted effort to get the ball out of Tom Brady's hand quicker. That helped the Patriots establish their best offensive rhythm of the game, with the running game helping to settle things down a bit. Vereen had six carries for 39 carries. Up to that point in the game, the Patriots had seven carries for eight yards.

2. Interesting to take note of the personnel adjustment along the offensive line, as left guard Josh Kline was pulled, Ryan Wendell was switched from right guard to left guard, and rookie Cameron Fleming was inserted at right guard. This is a case where Wendell’s versatility, experience and smarts to play all three interior spots was key for the team, because Fleming is limited to the right guard spot on the interior. This was the first time we recall seeing Wendell at left guard in a game since he joined the team in 2008.

3. Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was a terror. He put Fleming on his back on a third-and-11 incomplete pass (13:07) as it looked like Fleming got too high in his stance, and then powered past Wendell on third-and-2 from the Jets’ 6 to force an incomplete pass (2:05). Richardson looked like the best defensive player on the field. He later talked about how the Jets were "feasting" on the Patriots' offensive line.

4. Good things often happen when pressure can be created, as Chandler Jones showed on linebacker Jamie Collins' interception (1:19). Jones beat left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson to the inside, and quarterback Geno Smith had trouble stepping into the throw. The other impressive aspect of the play was Collins’ pass drop as he was covering almost 20 yards down the field from where he lined up. He’s a high-end athlete with diverse skills -- playing downhill against the run, sideline to sideline to make tackles against swing passes, and then plays like this. Seems like a long time ago when he was taking flak for his work on the goal-line Sept. 29 against the Chiefs. One nitpick on Collins: He shouldn't have lateraled the football after his interception.

5. Safety Patrick Chung was an error-repeater. After getting burned by play-action in the second quarter on tight end Jeff Cumberland’s 20-yard touchdown catch, he bit hard again on an inside run, lost his run-force responsibilities to the edge, and allowed Chris Ivory to get outside for a 16-yard run on a pitch (12:19).

6. Jets safety Calvin Pryor should have been penalized 15 yards for ripping off Danny Amendola's helmet (14:54). No gray area there from this viewpoint. Players can’t do that.

7. Cornerback Brandon Browner didn’t have a penalty, and showed up with strong coverage in the end zone against Jeremy Kerley on first down (8:10).
Picked-up pieces from second-quarter review of the New England Patriots' 17-16 win over the New York Jets:

1. Last week we saw the Dolphins double cover tight end Rob Gronkowski deep in the red zone when Gronkowski was split out wide, so the Patriots handed off to Shane Vereen for a 3-yard touchdown. It was a good example of how extra attention on Gronkowski opens opportunities for others. On Sunday, the Jets went the single coverage route, so the Patriots exploited the matchup; the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski against 5-foot-11, 207-pound safety Calvin Pryor is most often going to go in favor of Gronkowski, as it did on his 3-yard touchdown catch (12:14) when Gronkowski was split wide to the left.

2. Elsewhere on the field, the Jets did something a little different against Gronkowski than we’ve mostly seen this season, sometimes matching cornerback Marcus Williams (5-11, 196) against him. Williams, a smaller, quicker defender than Gronkowski is used to seeing, was competitive, playing inside leverage at times in an attempt to negate in-breaking routes (5:46).

3. Some early struggles for Gronkowski in the blocking game; one example came when Quintion Coples beat him off the defensive left edge to tackle Jonas Gray on a 2-yard run (14:11)

4. Left guard Josh Kline had a few hard-to-miss negative plays. He was steamrolled backwards by Sheldon Richardson on third-and-2, forcing a quick Tom Brady incomplete pass in the direction of Brandon LaFell (5:08). Kline was beaten again by Richardson on the Jets’ fourth sack (:48), which almost certainly led to the decision to replace him in the second half. Initial coverage on Gronkowski was solid on the play, forcing Brady to go to his next read, but by that time, the rush had arrived.

5. Danny Amendola’s 39-yard punt return (15:00) set up the team’s first touchdown, but the Patriots might have had some good fortune that linebacker Darius Fleming wasn’t penalized for an illegal block in the back on linebacker Nick Bellore. Looked like the officiating crew missed that one, but overall, Brad Allen’s crew receives a favorable review for not over-officiating the action.

6. Chandler Jones is part of the field-goal protection unit, playing the same spot in which Gronkowski injured his forearm in 2012.

7. Rob Ninkovich is probably kicking himself after having a golden chance to pick up his ninth sack of the season (11:20) on a delayed rush in which he came free but overran Geno Smith on third-and-4. Smith moved off the spot and connected with running back Bilal Powell for seven yards and the first down. Usually Ninkovich has to work much harder for a sack and that one was right there for him.

8. Linebacker Jamie Collins is playing at an extremely high level. A defender can’t time it up any better, or be more explosive, than he was in tackling Chris Ivory for a loss of two yards (8:54). By the time left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson tried to account for Collins, the Patriots’ second-year defender was already in the backfield.

9. Safety Patrick Chung bit on play-action, allowing tight end Jeff Cumberland to sneak behind him and haul in an easy 20-yard touchdown (6:03). The Jets set it up nicely, aligning two tight ends to the right side of the line, and Chung got caught looking in despite Cumberland releasing from the line at the snap.

10. Bill Belichick said after the game that punter Ryan Allen is striking the ball well. Allen’s 55-yard attempt at 5:04 was probably his best of the day, as the Patriots’ drive had stalled at their own 16 and that limited the Jets’ ability to gain a decisive field-position edge. Coverage teams, led by Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater helped out as well (9-yard return for 46-yard net).

11. Similar to last week against the Dolphins, when Miami ran on third-and-6 on the opening drive, the Jets’ decision to run on third-and-8 from the New England 13-yard line (1:00) was especially curious. CBS cameras showed Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg engaged in a brief discussion after the play, and something seemed off there from a Jets perspective, making me wonder if they either were unaware it was third down, or if there was a communication mix-up on which play to run.

Time of Patriots-Bills game could change

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots' regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills could be moving from its scheduled 1 p.m. ET kickoff time.

Here are the key details:

If the Broncos beat the Bengals on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" tonight, the Patriots-Bills game will move to 4:25 p.m. ET.

If the Broncos lose to the Bengals tonight, the Patriots-Bills game will stay at 1 p.m. ET.
Picked-up pieces from a first-quarter review of the New England Patriots' 17-16 win over the New York Jets on Sunday:

1. On the first of four Tom Brady sacks (13:49), which ended the first drive on third-and-3, it was a case of the Patriots not communicating and identifying where the Jets’ rush was coming from, more so than a lack of physical execution. The Jets had six in the box, and only two were down linemen (defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was in a two-point stance), which helped disguise the mike linebacker as Brady attempted to set the protection. This is where the confusion seemed to start. The Jets overloaded the offensive right side but ultimately brought just a three-man pressure to the opposite side. The Patriots’ offensive line slid to the right, away from where the rush was coming. Credit to the Jets, but the Patriots can also execute much better than that.

2. The second sack appeared to be more of a physical breakdown on a five-man rush than a result of any communication or identification issue. Tackles Marcus Cannon (left) and Sebastian Vollmer (right) were beaten rather cleanly, with Cannon potentially having a minor beef that Quinton Coples had his hands illegally in his face. Still, the play had little chance because of the multiple breakdowns across the line.

3. The third sack goes into the category of more communication and identification, as defensive back Antonio Allen blitzed late off the right side and tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Shane Vereen had some confusion on what to do. Specifically, it looked like Gronkowski’s indecision on who to pick up -- Allen or rushing linebacker Demario Davis -- was a key factor The Jets timed it up well, and when left tackle Nate Solder blocked down, it created a situation where the Patriots’ five linemen were blocking just two rushers, while Gronkowski and Vereen were in one-on-one blocking situations against Allen and Davis. Nice scheme by the Jets. At the same time, the Patriots can execute better.

4. Brady’s ability to read the defense pre-snap is one of his greatest strengths. The Jets looked like they got him on that initial third-down play (13:49 sack), but one example of Brady’s excellence in this area came on his 13-yard pass to Brandon LaFell (4:49) when he turned back and pointed to running back Jonas Gray on which player Gray was responsible for blocking (safety Dawan Landry). That gave the play a chance, even as Gray struggled to hold the block a bit.

5. The Patriots’ defensive mindset was clear when the Jets opened the game in a three-receiver package and it was matched in a 5-2 base defense with three big defensive tackles in Vince Wilfork (6-2, 325), Sealver Siliga (6-2, 325) and Alan Branch (6-6, 325) aligned between the tackles, flanked by ends Chandler Jones (6-5, 265) and Rob Ninkovich (6-2, 260). That’s a lot of beef up front, and you usually see the Patriots match a three-receiver package with either a nickel package or a lighter base unit. This was all about stopping the run and making Geno Smith beat them, which he couldn't do when it counted.

6. Chandler Jones was excellent in the running game, with one example coming when he got his hands into Jets tight end Zach Sudfeld, pressed him into the backfield and helped shut down the edge on a Percy Harvin 1-yard run out of the Wildcat (10:37). That was a physical play from Jones to set up third-and-9, and then he followed it up on the next drive by staying home on Harvin’s jet sweep (7:41) to drop him for no gain.

7. One player you might not expect was showing up around the ball: safety Tavon Wilson. He played nine snaps overall and looked like he had the good read in coverage on the initial third-down stop (13:49) and then had the awareness to locate Smith to end the Jets’ third drive (7:08) when Smith tucked and scrambled.

8. The Patriots were ready for the fake punt following the Jets’ third drive, leaving defensive tackles Wilfork, Branch and Chris Jones, among others, on the field as New York punted from its own 47. They usually aren’t on the punt return unit. The Jets punted it away, but this reflected how the Patriots were expecting the unexpected throughout.

9. The Patriots were determined to get their running game going on their second drive, using a sixth offensive lineman on the first two snaps. But a Gray run of minus-2 yards on second down set up third-and-8, and the leakage up front came off the right side, where offensive tackles Vollmer and Solder aligned side by side and Solder got caught lunging. It looked like the Patriots were trying to sell a run to that power side of the formation, with the intention of the cutback, but Calvin Pace blew it up by busting through the strong side on Solder.

10. Akeem Ayers was limited to just five snaps on defense, but he led the club with two special-teams tackles. His primary contributions came on special teams in this game, as he was on the field at various parts of the game on each of the Big 4 units -- kickoff coverage, punt coverage, kickoff return and punt return. Ayers made a solid tackle on the game’s opening kickoff, dropping the dangerous Harvin, to announce his presence.

11. One area to give the Jets’ defense credit: Tackling Gronkowski. That isn’t the easiest assignment, but the first two Patriots offensive plays showed they were sound in that area (linebacker David Harris, then cornerback Darrin Walls limiting any yards after catch).

Devin McCourty has some fun with 'Air Wilfork'

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
It’s not often that a 325-pound defensive lineman gets kudos for his vertical leap, which is why New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty is having so much fun with Vince Wilfork's jumping tip of a Nick Folk field goal attempt Sunday.

The play proved critical, as it stopped a go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter of a close game against the New York Jets.

McCourty dubbed Wilfork “Air Vince” in the locker room after the game and took to Twitter on Monday to take the joke a step further, with a nod to Michael Jordan’s iconic pose.

Tedy Bruschi Patriots chat recap

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
Every day after the New England Patriots play a game, Tedy Bruschi hosts a chat on Today's chat kicked off at 11 a.m., can be recapped here, and included some of the following topics:

1. Recapping struggles against the Jets and why the Patriots' mindset simply should be "survive and advance."

2. Highlighting offensive line struggles, but also some quality adjustments that the unit made.

3. Blitz concepts that worked against the Patriots, and how the Patriots also have them in their system.

4. If Denver loses tonight, does Bill Belichick play the starters next Sunday against the Bills?

5. Tedy makes his pick in tonight's Broncos-Bengals game, to be played in Cincinnati.

6. Dont'a Hightower and the defense coming up with big plays.

7. Are Patriots coaches overthinking things? Of course they are. This is what they do.

8. No surprise here -- it's late in the season and high-scoring offenses across the NFL, not just in New England, are slowing down.

Let's just win and move on

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Alex Goodlett/Getty ImagesRex Ryan drew up some good pressure concepts and disguises that got to Tom Brady on Sunday.

Join my chat every Monday to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q-and-A.

Q. Why do you think the Patriots had such a hard time getting into a flow yesterday? Do you think it was just a rivalry thing, or will this carry over into the playoffs? -- Yonkers, New York

A. This is why you always get the cliché from players about it being a tough divisional game. This is the way these games go sometimes. Not only do players know each other well, but coordinators do as well. I thought Rex Ryan drew up some good pressure concepts that got to Tom Brady. The Jets were getting there with four-man rushes, but the way Ryan disguised them off the line of scrimmage exposed some problems in the Patriots' protection. This is the time of the year when you win and move on. Survive and advance, whatever you want to call it. This is the time of year when so many high-powered offenses are coming back to earth.

Q. Hello Tedy, wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year in advance! It was a tough game yesterday. What do you think about the Pats' offense since the last three to four games? I think offensively we have slowed down and are struggling (SD, MIA, and NYJ). Could this hurt in playoffs? -- Ronak P. (Edison, New Jersey)

(Read full post)

Bill Belichick not happy with offense

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
The New England Patriots escaped with a 17-16 win against the New York Jets on Sunday, but coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels were not happy with how the team played on offense.

"We just didn't execute very well in any part of the [offensive] game," Belichick said during a conference call with reporters Monday. "All of the players and all of the coaches were involved. We just didn't execute very well. We had multiple mistakes everywhere. You could point to any spot and find some [mistakes] because they were everywhere.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
AP Photo/Bill KostrounTom Brady and the Patriots felt lots of pressure from the Jets during their Week 16 matchup on Sunday.
"We didn't execute the passing game very well, the running game, blocking, passing, catching. None of it was very good."

The Patriots were without wide receiver Julian Edelman, running back LeGarrette Blount and starting left guard Dan Connolly. Reserve offensive lineman Josh Kline started in place of Connolly, but was benched at halftime. Quarterback Tom Brady was under pressure throughout most of the game and the offensive line gave up four sacks in the first half.

"Fifty yards of offense in the first half, that's not going to win many games," Belichick said. "We were lucky to even be in the game."

McDaniels shared the blame for the offense's woes.

"We didn't have our best [game] total on offense," McDaniels said. "I don't think anybody played or executed or coached particularly well, starting with me.

Belichick gave credit to the Jets for playing a tough game.

"I didn't think it was our best game by any stretch," Belichick said. "I won't take anything away from the Jets. But, we have and will need to play a lot better than we played yesterday.

"I don't want to take anything away from them. They came out there. They competed well," Belichick said. "In the end we kind of made the plays we needed to make in the fourth quarter to win. But, I didn't think we played particularly well, particularly on offense."

The Patriots have another AFC East divisional matchup to close out the season against the Buffalo Bills, who have one of the NFL's top defenses.

"Every team is tough in the National Football League," Belichick said. "You can just look at the score in yesterday's game and any game in the NFL on any weekend. We don't play Division I football and have a bunch of Division III teams on the schedule. They don't exist. Every week is tough."

Aaron Hernandez back in court

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
[+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
AP Images/Brian SnyderAaron Hernandez's murder trial is expected to take six to 10 weeks.

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- The murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez is expected to take six to 10 weeks, prosecutors said Monday.

Hernandez was in Bristol County Superior Court for one of his final hearings before his January trial in the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd in an industrial park near Hernandez's North Attleborough home.

Dressed in a dark blazer, Hernandez sat silently during the hearing. He answered "yes" to a series of questions regarding jury selection and other trial procedures posed by Judge E. Susan Garsh.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to Lloyd's murder. He has also pleaded not guilty to the fatal shootings of two men in 2012 after an encounter at a Boston nightclub.

Hernandez's final pretrial hearing in the Lloyd slaying has been scheduled for Jan. 6 in Bristol County Superior Court. Jury selection begins Jan. 9.

Lloyd's family was in attendance Monday. Hernandez's fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, who had a hearing in the courtroom earlier, also briefly observed the proceeding. She has pleaded not guilty to lying before a grand jury that ultimately indicted Hernandez.

Prosecutors said they expect jury selection to take until about Jan. 20. They said they would call about 45 witnesses during the trial.

(Read full post)

Brady will have his eye on Broncos-Bengals

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on the line, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be tuning in to watch the Denver Broncos take on the Cincinnati Bengals on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

 “Yeah, I’m going to stay up and watch at least through the first half [unless] it gets too late,” Brady said Monday morning in his weekly interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI. “This is an important one for us so I will definitely be glued to this one.”

The Patriots already clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs with Sunday’s 17-16 win over the Jets. If Denver loses to Cincinnati, the Patriots clinch the AFC’s No. 1 overall seed and home-field advantage. The Patriots still control their own fate even if Denver wins, as a win in Week 17 over the Bills will lock up the AFC’s top seed.

“Everything is ahead of us,” Brady said. “It’s amazing you can play 15 games and still nothing is decided and everything is ahead of you. That’s the way the NFL is.”

Regardless of what happens with the Broncos, Brady wants to play in Week 17.

“I hope [I don’t sit]. I’d love to go out there,” Brady said. “After the last few weeks of football, I’d love to go out there and see if our offense can put together the best 60 minutes of football that we have put together in a long time. We’ve been up and down as of late. We really need to start putting some great football together in these next [games].”

With a number of Patriots players dealing with injuries, including wide receiver Julian Edelman and starting left guard Dan Connolly, Brady also sees the value of rest in Week 17.

“There’s a lot of guys that could probably use a little time off,” Brady said. “But at the same time, this is football season and you play through whatever you’ve got and deal with those things when the season ends. All of those things are coaches’ decisions.

“I want us to go out and win. That’s what I want. I don’t care about resting. I want to go out there and try to kick some butt. That’s what I want to do.”

Tedy Bruschi's Patriots chat at 11 a.m. ET

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
Every Monday after the New England Patriots play, Tedy Bruschi hosts a Patriots chat. Monday's chat is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET, and questions can be asked in advance.

Catch up with Tedy then.

Patriots' defensive snaps: Change at DE

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Snaps played by New England Patriots defenders in Sunday's 17-16 win against the Jets (penalties included):

Chandler Jones -- 63 of 63
Rob Ninkovich -- 63 of 63
Akeem Ayers -- 5 of 63

Quick-hit thoughts: With Chandler Jones returning to a full-time role, and the Patriots focusing more on stopping the run, it resulted in a significant dip in playing time for Akeem Ayers, who was used solely as a pass-rusher in a lighter nickel front. The five snaps for Ayers were easily a season-low with the Patriots. Ninkovich continues to add miles to his odometer as he is essentially been a 100-percent play-time option since Week 2 of the season, playing more snaps than any defensive lineman in the NFL.

Vince Wilfork -- 56 of 63
Sealver Siliga -- 47 of 63
Alan Branch -- 26 of 63
Chris Jones -- 9 of 63

Quick-hit thoughts: The Patriots' focus on loading up the box and stopping the run was reflective in the playing-time totals at this position, as the club leaned more on its bigger defensive tackles in Vince Wilfork (6-foot-2, 325 pounds), Sealver Siliga (6-2, 325) and Alan Branch (6-6, 325), playing them as a trio on 26 snaps to provide a sturdy presence at the line of scrimmage. Chris Jones (6-1, 309), who is more of a penetrating presence than a hold-the-fort option, saw a significant reduction in snaps as a result of that change; his nine were easily a season-low.

Jamie Collins -- 63 of 63
Dont'a Hightower -- 63 of 63

Quick-hit thoughts: Collins and Hightower continue to impress, with no third option playing in the game because the Patriots ran their base defense with essentially five down linemen (edge players Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich could technically be viewed as outside linebackers at times). It seems like yesterday we were turning on sports-talk radio around these parts and hearing about how the Patriots were making mistakes by passing on players like Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to select Collins in 2013, and how Hightower was close to being a first-round bust. That script has changed.

Brandon Browner -- 63 of 63
Darrelle Revis -- 63 of 63
Logan Ryan -- 32 of 63

Quick-hit thoughts: With top No. 3 option Kyle Arrington inactive because of a hamstring injury, Logan Ryan stepped into that role when the Patriots went to a sub package with three cornerbacks. They also ran a sub package with three safeties at times. But the main takeaway from this position is that Brandon Browner (no penalties) and Darrelle Revis are locked in at the top.

Devin McCourty -- 63 of 63
Patrick Chung -- 48 of 63
Duron Harmon -- 20 of 63
Tavon Wilson -- 9 of 63

Quick-hit thoughts: We wouldn't be surprised to see Chung show up on the injury report this week, as this wasn't his best game and he looked hobbled at times. The Patriots had a specific matchup based on what personnel the Jets had in the game, so there were times when Chung was taken off in favor of more of a coverage option in Duron Harmon. That has been standard operating procedure for most of the season. Wilson, playing in sub, had one big tackle for the second time in three weeks.

Patriots' offensive snaps: All in for 'Gronk'

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A look at snaps played by New England Patriots skill-position players on offense in the team's 17-16 victory over the New York Jets (kneeldowns not included; penalties included):

Tight end
Rob Gronkowski -- 61 of 61
Tim Wright -- 32 of 61
Nate Solder -- 19 of 61
Michael Hoomanawanui -- 9 of 61
Cameron Fleming -- 4 of 61

Quick-hit thoughts: Gronkowski was the only skill-position player outside of Tom Brady to play every offensive snap, another sign that he's fully back to top form. Wright played just seven snaps in the first half, so his usage in the second half (25 snaps) -- as the Patriots went to an increased tempo -- was a notable in-game personnel adjustment. Solder and Fleming had snaps counted as a tight end when they declared eligible, but these snaps don't account for their regular work as offensive linemen.

Wide receiver
Brandon LaFell -- 57 of 61
Danny Amendola -- 44 of 61
Brian Tyms -- 13 of 61

Quick-hit thoughts: The Patriots were without Julian Edelman and it showed at times, as this group didn't consistently gain separation. Amendola's 44 snaps were his third-highest total of the season, and they came one week after he played a season-low 12 offensive snaps against Miami. This group looks different with Edelman.

Running back
Shane Vereen -- 39 of 61
Jonas Gray -- 16 of 61
Brandon Bolden -- 8 of 61

Quick-hit thoughts: Gray had led the team at halftime with 12 snaps, but things quickly shifted to Vereen (11 snaps at halftime) as the Patriots increased the tempo and went with a 2-WR, 2-TE, 1-RB package that featured Vereen. That also reflected some critical adjustments in the second half.

James Develin -- 3 of 61

Quick-hit thoughts: Not a big two-back game, as the Patriots elected to use extra offensive linemen up front instead. But Develin was on the field for Gray's 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and also Bolden's game-sealing 17-yard run on third-and-1.

Tom Brady -- 61 of 61

Quick-hit thoughts: Brady wasn't coming out of this game and had the reward at the end to take three kneels in the victory formation.