Penalty watch: Offside on a kickoff again

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
11:00
AM ET
(A weekly look at the New England Patriots' penalties, both from a player and infraction standpoint.)

The New England Patriots lead the AFC with 28 total penalties, 24 of which have been accepted. One of those penalties was deliberately taken by the team, a delay-of -game infraction in Minnesota to create more room for a punt. Six of them also came after the team had built a 30-7 lead over the Vikings in the fourth quarter this past Sunday.

Still, Bill Belichick would like to eliminate some of the bad football, such as back-to-back weeks with an offside penalty on a kickoff (Brandon LaFell in the opener, Duron Harmon in Week 2). Offensive tackle Nate Solder also picked up three penalties in a span of two plays this past Sunday.

Here is the weekly breakdown:

PENALTY LEADERBOARD
Nate Solder -- 4
Dont'a Hightower -- 3
Chandler Jones -- 2
Brandon LaFell -- 2
Logan Ryan -- 2
15 tied with one apiece

INFRACTION BREAKDOWN
Holding (offensive) -- 5
Pass interference (offensive) -- 3
Roughing the passer -- 3
False start -- 2
Illegal block above the waist (special teams) -- 2
Offside (special teams) -- 2
Pass interference -- 2
9 penalties tied with 1

LOOKING AHEAD TO WEEK 3: Veteran referee Pete Morelli has been assigned Sunday's game between the Patriots and Raiders.

#TBT: Tom Brady's college resume

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
10:10
AM ET
Brady ResumeTom Brady/Facebook
We all know Tom Brady as the future Hall of Fame quarterback who has won three Super Bowls, two Super Bowl MVPs, two NFL MVPs, has been to nine Pro Bowls and the list goes on ...

But what if Brady followed a different career path? What if he hadn’t been drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, No. 199 overall?

Brady found his college résumé and posted it on his Facebook page for a fun Throwback Thursday.

“Found my old résumé! Really thought I was going to need this after the fifth round. #tbt,” Brady wrote in the post.

If Brady didn’t become one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, he could have fallen back on his degree in General Studies from the University of Michigan. He graduated from Michigan’s College of Literature Science and the Arts in 1999 with an emphasis in business and psychology, with a GPA of 3.3 and 4.0 in those concentrations.

At the top of Brady’s list of summer jobs was his position as an intern at Merrill Lynch in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was an assistant to senior sales broker for two summers in 1998 and 1999. Brady wrote that he was "exposed to upper-level management and company strategy" and "researched stock and mutual fund reports while updating client portfolios." Tom Brady, stock broker? Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it is as NFL quarterback.

If a career in football didn’t pan out, maybe Brady could have tried getting a job in another sporting industry -- golf. Brady spent two summers -- while also working at Merrill Lynch -- as a sales representative at the University of Michigan Golf Course for one summer and at the Polo Fields Golf and Country Club in Jackson, Michigan, for the other. His roles at those courses were as a sales rep, course ranger and starter. Imagine stepping to the first tee and having Brady tell you to keep your cart off the fifth and 12th fairways?

Brady also had hands-on experience in construction -- mainly in supervision and management -- and as a security manager at the Top of the Park Ann Arbor Summer Festival.

And just for icing on the cake, Brady listed some of his football accolades at the bottom of his résumé -- 1997 National Champion, 1999 team captain, etc.

Could it be that the managerial and leadership experience he attained in the real world prior to being drafted helped him become the field general we see today? If so, we tip our caps to Brady’s summer employers, but are thankful he never had to knock on your doors looking for a full-time gig.

When Vince Wilfork drops into coverage

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
8:00
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of our favorite weekly segments is when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick breaks down plays after a victory, as it sheds light on things that he deemed critical to a favorable result.

His first breakdown of the 2014 season is posted on Patriots.com, and the play that stands out is Chandler Jones' fourth-quarter sack in which defensive tackle Vince Wilfork drops off the line.

"We actually go to a three-man rush here, where Vince pulls out into coverage," Belichick explained. "They are trying to run a clear-out route with the crosser underneath. We have good coverage from [Darrelle] Revis, ready to pick up [Kyle] Rudolph on the crosser. Vince drops out here and you see [Matt] Cassel come off the crosser and come back to the check-down, and probably didn't expect to see Vince to be standing there in front of the check-down. ... Can't find that receiver."

Other plays selected by Belichick:

1. Ryan Allen's 59-yard punt in the first quarter. "Great punt, 59 yards, no return ... thought that was a big field position play for us."

2. Devin McCourty's interception. "He's able to run this one down pretty easily ... I thought we really had good effort and good hustle from the rest of our defensive players to get blocks [on the run-back]."

3. Coverage helps the pass rush on Dont'a Hightower's sack. "As usual, the defensive pass rush always looks better when there is good coverage, and this is a great team defensive play. There is really nobody open to throw the ball to, so we had good overall pass coverage. This is Hightower coming around the corner on [Matt] Kalil. High has done a good job on the pass rush this season, not just on backs and tight ends, but even when he's matched up against offensive linemen."

4. Jones' blocked field goal. "The key to this play is with the ball on the hash mark, the flight of the ball should be over the guard, and that's really where Chandler wants to get to. So as he clears Kalil, then he wants to flatten out to get right into that kicking lane. You can see he really does that perfectly."

Weekly Patriots chat at noon

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
7:55
AM ET
Every Thursday on ESPNBoston.com, there is a Patriots chat. Today's chat is scheduled to kick off at 12 p.m. ET and questions can be submitted in advance.

Catch up then.

Patriots-Raiders through stats-based lens

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
5:00
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A look at Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders through a stats-based lens, via ESPN's Stats & Information:

1. Divergent paths since the Snow Bowl: On game day, it will have been 4,628 days since the Snow Bowl game between the teams. Consider the path the teams have taken since:
  • The Patriots have a 148-46 record, while the Raiders are 64-130.
  • The Patriots have had 12 winning seasons and the Raiders one.
  • The Patriots have had two starting quarterbacks, the Raiders 18.
  • The Patriots have had one head coach, the Raiders seven.
2. Raiders struggle in Eastern Time zone: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Raiders have lost 14 consecutive day games in the Eastern Time zone, which is the sixth-longest streak in the Super Bowl era. The Titans/Oilers own the longest losing streak in Eastern Time zone games -- 30, from 1981-1987.

3. Brady not connecting down field: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a 55.8 completion percentage through two games, which is 33rd among 35 qualifiers. Brady is 6-of-28 on passes 10 or more yards down the field.
  • 0-10 yards -- 75.5 percent (5th)
  • 11-20 yards -- 29.4 percent (33rd)
  • 20 or more yards -- 9.1 percent (32nd)
4. Receivers play part in down-the-field passing struggles: While Brady has been inaccurate at times on throws of 10 yards or more down the field, his receivers don't always help him out. The Patriots are among the league-leaders in percentage of dropped passes more than 10 yards down field:
  • 2014 -- 11.8 (tied-28th)
  • 2013 -- 6.4 (32nd)
  • 2012 -- 9.4 (32nd)
5. Regular-season home winning streak vs. conference foes: The Patriots have won 30 straight regular-season home games against conference opponents, the longest streak since the merger:
  • Patriots -- 30
  • Bengals -- 8
  • Panthers -- 6
  • Saints - 6
6. Turnover differential remains strength: The Patriots have a league-high seven takeaways through two games and own a plus-5 differential. This has been part of their identity since Brady became their starting quarterback, while the Raiders are an NFL-worst minus-83 over that span:
  • Patriots -- plus-150
  • Packers -- plus-60
  • Colts -- plus-44
  • Seahawks -- plus-44

Jerod Mayo's absence not injury-related

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
6:40
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Starting linebacker Jerod Mayo's absence from Wednesday's practice was not injury-related, but the New England Patriots had a longer list of players showing up on their first injury report of the week.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who missed Sunday's game, is now on the report with a shoulder injury; it's his left shoulder and he was limited in Wednesday's practice. Meanwhile, No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman (back), starting center Dan Connolly (knee) and running back Shane Vereen (shoulder) are new additions to the injury report, as all were limited in practice.

Safety Don Jones, who is tied for the team lead with three special teams tackles, missed the entire practice with a hamstring injury.

The players who were on the injury report last week remain limited in practice -- linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh), tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee), backup center Ryan Wendell (knee), backup defensive end Michael Buchanan (ankle) and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga (left hand).

 
 
video

ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss previews New England's Sunday matchup against the Oakland Raiders and sits down with Dan Connolly in this week's edition of Mike Reiss' P.A.T.
video

The NFL Live crew make their picks for Oakland at New England.

With Ridley, Pats' attack more than passing

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
3:59
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots are preaching balance on offense this week.

Most of the attention is on quarterback Tom Brady and the desire to spread the ball around to skill players other than wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

[+] EnlargeStevan Ridley
AP Photo/Jim MoneStevan Ridley had a team-high 101 yards on 25 carries against the Vikings as the Patriots made it a point to establish the running game.
But running back Stevan Ridley brought attention back to a balanced Patriots offense highlighted by a consistent ground attack.

“I just know that when we have a more balanced attack that we are a better offense and that’s what we are striving for this season,” Ridley said. “But, it’s still early in the season. We don’t have all the kinks worked out right now.

“We just have guys that are new in positions and guys that haven’t played a lot. We are just trying to figure it out as a team, but I think it is a group effort and we are working together and I think that they have improved week to week. From Miami to Minnesota, I think they have made a drastic improvement.”

Ridley understands the value of the run game, especially in its ability to chip away at a defense.

“It’s not always going to be there early in a game, eventually a defense is going to wear down and the creases will come,” Ridley said. “So, you can’t really try to go for the home runs early, you have to keep grinding it between the tackles and finding the tough yardage -- giving [the offensive line] some time to figure out the defense that they are playing.

“If that’s what you have to do is take the tough yardage, then eventually you will break it and get some big runs. But until then, be consistent. Be a smart player. And keep the ball out there. The offense will keep moving the chains and keep rolling.”

Ridley, who carried the ball 25 times for 101 yards and a touchdown, credited his performance to the offensive line’s ability to keep attacking the defense.

“It was good that they stuck with me late in the game,” Ridley said. “Really that is the coach’s call. However I get [carries], I just go out there are run hard.

“Over the course of a game you get [the defense] to wear down -- that [Minnesota] defense was tired. And that’s why we have all the big boys up front that we have to see if they can sustain our offensive line over four quarters. And so we felt good about how we were attacking them toward the end and that’s how we kept moving the ball.

“Some days it is going to be through the air. Some days it is going to be on the ground, but it is the defense’s job to figure us out. But as an offense we have to do what we do and as a unit we are going to keep marching the ball down the field game in and game out -- that’s the goal.”

Ridley is looking forward to seeing the progress of the offensive line and the Patriots’ balance on offense. He is also ready to play in front of New England fans in the home opener against his father’s favorite team, the Oakland Raiders.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Ridley said. “Personally, my dad’s old favorite team was the Raiders, but I of course became a Patriot. ... Family is going to be here. It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere to come back to Foxborough and get in the home stadium.”

Don’t worry. Ridley said his father will be wearing a No.22 Patriots jersey on Sunday.

Brady, Patriots not in Spurs-like form

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
3:40
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a training camp chat with Sirius XM NFL Radio, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady talked about his desire to lead an offense that was like the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA.

Brady
"You watch the Spurs this year in the championship, and whoever the ball got kicked out to was going to make the shot," Brady said at the time. "I think that’s what makes an offense. It’s not, 'Throw it to one guy and see if he can create something.' It’s pass, pass, pass, pass, pass until you get your best look and then, boom, that’s when the ball goes in. That’s what we want to be on offense."

Through two games, the Patriots aren't there yet. Not even close.

Brady clearly has a nice rapport going with receiver Julian Edelman, and he also hasn't been shy in feeding tight end Rob Gronkowski. But it's mostly been a struggle after that.

"I think that’s definitely a big part of what we’re trying to do offensively to make us hard to defend is to be able to throw the ball to everybody. And you’re right, those guys have seen a majority of throws, and I’ve got to do a better job finding the other guys because it’s a lot of good routes, they’re big targets, guys are working really hard to get open," Brady said Wednesday.

"So hopefully it shows up this week in our pass game. We’re going to work hard this week to see if we can all be on the same page more often."

Brady has targeted Gronkowski or Edelman on 42 percent of his throws this season, completing 61 percent of those passes. In his 45 targets of all other Patriots pass catchers, Brady has completed 53 percent of his passes.

The numbers are skewed, in part, because of game-plan considerations. For example, the Patriots ran 28 of their 67 offensive snaps against the Vikings with offensive tackle Cameron Fleming as an eligible receiver even though he was always staying in to block, so they essentially took away a capable pass catcher to beef up at the line of scrimmage and focus on the running game.

That also meant fewer three-receiver packages and less time for receiver Danny Amendola (19 snaps), who doesn't seem to have the same connection with Brady as Edelman does.

Bush
Amendola
"I have a lot of trust in Danny," Brady insisted. "He battled through some injuries last year and has had a great spring, great training camp, and he’s been out there quite a bit. It’s my responsibility to get him the ball, and there were a few catches that got [called] back, a few big plays that would extend drives."

Whether it's Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson or Brandon LaFell, Brady knows the current results must improve.

"I don’t think our passing game has been really stellar to this point, so it’s hard to sustain much over the course of the game and get those guys the ball when we’re not doing as good a job as we’re capable of," he said, perhaps considering the club's 10-of-31 success rate on third down (28th in the NFL).

"We’ve got to keep going after it, and guys get more opportunities to get balls, and I need to do a better job finding those guys when they’re open and running the routes that we talk about all week. That’ll go a long way to help us win."

Collins returns to practice; Mayo absent

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
12:45
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh) returned to the practice field on Wednesday, but another important linebacker was missing.

Mayo
Mayo
Jerod Mayo, who played all 68 defensive snaps in Sunday's 30-7 win against the Minnesota Vikings, was not seen during the stretching portion of practice. It is unknown why Mayo was absent from the start of practice, and it is something that we will monitor when the team releases its injury report on Wednesday afternoon.

Collins had missed Friday's practice and did not travel with the team to Minnesota. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard also returned to practice Wednesday after being a surprise scratch on Sunday (left shoulder).

Linebacker Darius Fleming, who is now on the practice squad, was back to wearing his No. 58 jersey. New practice squad members Caylin Hauptmann and Kona Schwenke were at practice. Hauptmann was wearing No. 68 and Schwenke had on a No. 97 jersey.

There was also a player wearing a No. 41 jersey.

The Patriots give black jerseys to the practice players of the week, which signify the players who best prepared the team leading up to a victory as determined by the coaching staff. Tight end Tim Wright, wide receiver Josh Boyce, running back Jonas Gray, defensive lineman Joe Vellano and linebacker Ja'Gared Davis all wore black jerseys Wednesday.

Why did Tom Brady wear a glove?

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
11:30
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the things we wanted to follow up on with quarterback Tom Brady, after reviewing the tape of Sunday's win over the Vikings, was why he wore a glove on his non-throwing hand after not doing so in the season-opener.

As noted Monday:
It's probably not a big deal -- quarterbacks sometimes wear gloves on both hands to help with grip, and perhaps the weather had something to do with it -- but any time a player who focuses on fine details as much as Brady changes routine it's more than just a passing note.

So Brady was asked the question at his weekly news conference (we took some friendly ribbing from fellow reporters afterward) and this was the response:

"It was pretty dry up there in Minnesota. It was nice and humid and sticky down there [in Miami]. So it helps your grip. Quarterbacks like sticky footballs, nice and grippy. You don't really get that in the winter months here, so that's why you see the glove a little more often."

Game-time temperature Sunday in Minnesota was 58 degrees.

Game-time temperature in the season-opener in South Florida was 89 degrees with 61 percent humidity.

And that's today's glove story. Carry on.

Belichick touches on Raiders ... and T-Birds

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
11:25
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick covered everything from the Oakland Raiders to the T-Birds, his middle school football team, during his Wednesday press conference.

Experienced Raiders team: Belichick knows the Raiders, who are the NFL’s second-oldest team as it relates to opening-day rosters, have a valuable asset: experience. “A lot of familiar faces, but guys we are used to seeing in different uniforms,” Belichick said. “The thing that jumps out about the Raiders is how experienced they are -- how many veteran players they have.”

Raiders are "where we were a week ago:" The Raiders are 0-2 after a rough 30-14 loss at home to the Houston Texans, but Belichick is not looking past them. “With the leadership they have out there with the veterans on this team, guys that are used to winning, guys that they brought in that have been in all those playoff games, Super Bowls, I mean, look, this is where we were a week ago,” Belichick said. “This is the same thing we heard in here last Wednesday after the Miami game. I’m sure the way they feel after the Houston game is the same way we felt after the Miami game. Last week doesn’t mean anything in the NFL, it’s what happens this week. That’s all we can focus on is what we need to do to get ready for this game.”

A different coverage look: Unlike the Patriots' previous two opponents, the Raiders like to play close to the line of scrimmage, especially against wide receivers. “Play more man-to-man, more press coverage,” Belichick said when asked about how the Raiders’ defense is different from others. “They mix their mans and their zones and they make some pressure in there. ... I’d say more man-to-man than we have seen in the last couple weeks.”

Like the Raiders of many years ago: The dominant Raiders teams that played in the 1970s and 1980s were known for size and speed. Belichick said the 2014 Raiders return to the historical look of the franchise. “I think that this team looks like the big, fast team that the Raiders have been known for,” Belichick said. “They are big at every position -- their line is big, the receivers are big, the backs are big, defensive line is big, secondary is big, kicker is big. I don’t how many guys they have under 4.45, but it has to be a dozen, maybe more than that. They are fast at linebacker. DBs are all fast, even the safeties are fast.”

Reece, the matchup dilemma: It’s rare that fullbacks receive a lot of attention, but in the case of Raiders fullback Marcel Reece, his versatility has caught Belichick’s eye. Belichick called Reece, who is a former wide receiver turned fullback, a “matchup player,” meaning it’s difficult to find the right way to contain a player with his skills. “You put a big guy on him, he’s probably going to have a hard time matching up with Reece’s speed and quickness,” Belichick said. “Put a smaller guy on him, he might match up with his speed and quickness, but it would be hard to match up with his size. I’d say that’s a dilemma. Who do you have that has the same skill set as Reece?“

Professor Belichick: The press conference ended with Belichick giving a 10-minute crash course on unbalanced lines, the single-wing formation and his eighth-grade football days for the T-Birds in Annapolis. It was as though Belichick was reciting chapters from a book like his dad, Steve Belichick’s “Football Scouting Methods.”

Chandler Jones earns AFC defensive honor

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
10:40
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after turning in one of the best games in his three-year career on Sunday against the Vikings.

Jones finished with eight tackles and two sacks in the 30-7 win, and added a blocked field goal that he scooped up and raced 58 yards for a touchdown.

Technically, the blocked field goal doesn't factor in to Jones' defensive honor, but it was reflective of his overall excellent day of work, as he gave Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil fits.

One of the key factors for Jones' explosion was returning to more of an end-of-the-line role after playing mostly 3-4 defensive end in the season opener.
video 
New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss talks about the minimal impact tight end Rob Gronkowski had in the victory against Minnesota and what to expect with his progress.

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