Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. Leading things off this week with best wishes to longtime Patriots equipment manager Don Brocher, who started with the team in 1972 and is battling some health issues that are keeping him away from the job. As quarterback Tom Brady and other players said the other day, there are a lot of people thinking about him on a daily basis.

2. Through the first two weeks of the season, the NFC is 7-1 in games played against AFC foes. Entering the season, it appeared that the NFC was the power conference and the early results reinforce that line of thinking. The Colts have the AFC’s lone win against an NFC team, beating the Vikings.

3. Although it’s the same offensive system in many ways, Patriots players have pointed out that there are some noticeable differences now that Josh McDaniels is running the offense. One of the big points of emphasis so far has been the running game. The Patriots have 63 rushes through two games, compared to 47 through two games last season. Some of that is game-plan specific, but even going back to the start of training camp, the focus on the running game has been noticeable to players.

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin and Greg Schiano
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireGiants coach Tom Coughlin wasn't pleased with Greg Schiano after the Bucs' defense bulldozed the line on a kneel-down.
4. Something I learned this week after watching the Giants post an impressive road win over the Panthers: The Panthers don’t put their team logo at midfield like most other clubs do -- they put the NFL logo there instead -- because owner Jerry Richardson believes the NFL shield is more important than the club’s. That’s a powerful statement by Richardson, the only NFL owner who is a former player.

5. One part of the Patriots’ signing of tight end Kellen Winslow that interests me is that Winslow didn’t fit with two Bill Belichick disciples -- Eric Mangini in Cleveland and Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay. Both Mangini and Schiano traded Winslow early in their tenures. Winslow said all the right things Thursday and looks ready to fall into line into the Patriots’ way of doing things, but Mangini and Schiano obviously didn’t think he’d do the same for them.

6. Leftover from last week, Part 1: Hard not to come away impressed with Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. That was one of the best all-around performances by a cornerback against the Patriots, if not the best, in recent memory.

7. Leftover from last week, Part 2: Interesting debate on the Buccaneers-Giants game-ending kneel-down strategy, with the Buccaneers bull-rushing up front in hopes of causing a fumble with the Giants in their “victory formation” in a one-possession game. I didn’t see anything dirty about the play, other than two Giants players punching two Buccaneers players (for which they were both later fined). I could envision Bill Belichick showing his players video of that as a teaching point, with the message being that you can never lose your edge before the clock reads 0:00.

8. Patriots receiver Deion Branch stayed in New England after surprisingly being cut, working out with a bunch of former New England players, including running backs Kevin Faulk and Thomas Clayton, quarterback Brian Hoyer and receiver Darnell Jenkins, among others. After going through a few days of practice, he was pleased with his conditioning and ability to keep up with the pace after missing almost three full weeks.

9. Through two weeks, no teams had given up more points than the Chiefs (75) and Saints (75). Both 0-2, they face each other in Week 3. The Chiefs, under fourth-year general manager Scott Pioli and first-year head coach Romeo Crennel, have been one of the NFL’s surprise disappointments so far. If they don’t win today, it could be big trouble ahead, with games against the Chargers (home), Ravens (home) and Buccaneers (away) up next before their bye.

10. Tom Brady is not a big stat guy, but this one might resonate with him: He needs 21 passing yards to move past his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, on the NFL’s all-time passing list.

11. There has been less wear-and-tear for the Patriots through two games this season, with defenders playing a total of 129 snaps. Through two games last year, it was 148. While two games isn’t a large enough sample size to draw any definitive conclusions, one key has been third down (Patriots opponents are 9-of-28). The Patriots ranked 28th and 32nd in that category the last two seasons, respectively.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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