NFL Nation: Brandon Bolden

Sharing Patriots halftime thoughts

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
6:02
PM ET
BALTIMORE -- Sharing some halftime thoughts of the New England Patriots' game against the Ravens (New England leads 17-0):

One of Patriots' best halves of the season: This has been, across the board, some of the best football the Patriots have played this season. All three phases are getting it done. On offense, a commitment to the ground game has stood out. On defense, the turnovers are back. And the special teams coverage has been outstanding, sparked by captain Matthew Slater. For the Ravens, quarterback Joe Flacco doesn't look completely comfortable.

Replay review critical for Patriots: Danny Amendola's late second-quarter fumble was overturned on replay, which was crucial for the Patriots because it could have been a momentum-swinging turn of events -- the Ravens getting the ball on a short field and then at the start of the third quarter. Turnovers are such a big part of the action, as we saw in the first quarter for the Patriots (Logan Ryan interception sets up the second touchdown).

Red-zone struggles corrected: One of the big storylines entering the game was the Patriots' red-zone performance (1 of 4 vs. Miami). They are 2 of 2 today, with a power running game (LeGarrette Blount) and then a well-designed pass play (Shane Vereen) the successful formula.

A lot of penalties: Ron Winter's crew has been busy tonight. It's always difficult to tell while watching live if all the calls are warranted, but our general preference are games with fewer flags. It seemed like a long half because of it, with little flow. This reminds us of the 2009 Patriots-Ravens regular-season game, in Foxborough, in which Winter was also the referee.

Injuries to monitor: Vereen left in the second quarter with a groin injury and has not returned. Brandon Bolden has assumed his role as the top "passing back." ... Safety Steve Gregory left in the second quarter with what looked like a right knee/leg injury. It looked signficant, and rookie Duron Harmon took his place. ... Linebacker Dont'a Hightower left the game briefly in the second quarter, but returned.

Ravens get the ball: The Patriots had called heads at the opening toss and it came up tails, with the Ravens deferring the choice to the second half. So the Ravens get the ball to open the second half.

Stevan Ridley, Alfonzo Dennard active

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
11:46
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As expected, running back Stevan Ridley is active for the Patriots and will dress for today's game against the Cleveland Browns. What remains to be seen is just how much he will play after being deactivated last week following three straight games with a fumble.

The team announced its final five inactives -- wide receiver Aaron Dobson and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon had previously been ruled out -- which includes running back Brandon Bolden, who was listed with a non-injury issue but probable to play, and rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (hip), who was limited this week in practice.

Starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who has missed two of three games with a knee injury and was listed as questionable, will play. Veteran wide receiver Austin Collie, re-signed this week, is active and will play. With Dobson and Thompkins sitting, Collie could be in line for reps as the team's third or fourth receiver.

Below is a full list of Patriots inactives:

LB Steve Beauharnais
DE Jake Bequette
RB Brandon Bolden
OT Marcus Cannon
WR Aaron Dobson
TE Michael Hoomanawanui
WR Kenbrell Thompkins

Below is a list of Browns inactives:

WR Josh Cooper
OL Reid Fragel
OL Garrett Gilkey
TE Keavon Milton
QB Alex Tanney
OL Martin Wallace
QB Brandon Weeden
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Running back Brandon Bolden was not spotted at the start of Friday morning's rainy New England Patriots practice, which sparked the following question: Could this open the door for Stevan Ridley to return to the 46-man game-day roster?

Ridley
Ridley
Bolden hasn't been listed on the team's injury report this week and the absence could be non-injury related. More details regarding Bolden's absence should be learned around 4 p.m. ET when the official participation report is released.

The Patriots dressed three running backs for last Sunday's win against the Texans -- Shane Vereen (41 of 70 snaps), LeGarrette Blount (20 snaps) and Bolden (9) -- which left Ridley on the sidelines. Since that decision, one of the top storylines surrounding the team is if Ridley will continue to be a healthy scratch, or if he might re-emerge in some form. Bolden's status could have a direct impact on the answer.

The other area of note that caught the eye at practice was seeing fill-in starting right tackle Will Svitek's right ankle heavily taped. Svitek landed on the injury report Wednesday, leaving the Patriots vulnerable at tackle because starter Sebastian Vollmer (leg) is on season-ending injured reserve and top backup Marcus Cannon (ankle) remains out of practice.

Also with receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) not practicing, it essentially rules him out Sunday for the second straight game.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard wasn't present for the second day in a row as he is due in court for a second day in Nebraska.
After fumbling in three straight games, New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley was a healthy scratch for his team's Week 13 matchup with the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon.

Following the 34-31 win, during which New England accumulated 87 rushing yards on 27 carries, Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered a simple reason why Ridley was declared inactive for the first time since his rookie season in 2011.

[+] EnlargeLeGarrette Blount
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsLeGarrette Blount led the Patriots with 12 carries and 44 rushing yards.
"Because there were 46 other players active ahead of him," he said.

The Patriots turned to a four-back attack in Ridley's absence, as LeGarrette Blount led the way with 12 carries for 44 yards and a touchdown, and Shane Vereen added 75 total yards and a receiving touchdown. Brandon Bolden had four total touches, and fullback James Develin scored the first touchdown of his career.

The group drew praise from quarterback Tom Brady after the game.

"LeGarrette ran really hard. Shane's doing a great job for us coming back off being out for a while, and Brandon got a lot of touches, too," he said. "So all those guys contributed. We're going to need them all, that's one of the strengths of our team."

What remains to be seen is how long it will take for Ridley to work his way back into the lineup, as he was benched following his fumble in the first quarter last week.

He's proven to be one of the better between-the-tackles rushers in the NFL when on the field, but ball security has been a problem. He has nine fumbles in 42 career regular-season games, six of which have been lost.

The Patriots next take on the Cleveland Browns, one of seven teams to enter Sunday allowing fewer than 100 yards rushing per game.

That matchup might lead the team to work Ridley back into the mix as they aim to further hit their stride down the stretch.

Bolden, Blount in line for more carries

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
12:08
PM ET
New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley was announced as inactive for Sunday's game, coming on the heels of three games in which he has fumbled. Earlier Sunday morning, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that the Patriots likely would have used Ridley in a reduced role if he were active, though roster considerations made it necessary to keep Ridley off the field altogether.

Ridley
Ridley
In addition to Ridley, the Patriots announced that defensive end Jake Bequette and linebacker Steve Beauharnais will not play Sunday. The team had previously ruled out wide receiver Aaron Dobson, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and starting right tackle Marcus Cannon.

The full list of the Patriots' and Texans' inactives is below:

Patriots
LB Steve Beauharnais
DE Jake Bequette
OT Marcus Cannon
CB Alfonzo Dennard
WR Aaron Dobson
TE Michael Hoomanawanui
RB Stevan Ridley

Texans
OT Andrew Gardner
DE Tim Jamison
OG Alex Kupper
DE Ricky Sapp
DB Jawanza Starling
OG Cody White
QB T.J. Yates

Analysis: The big news here is the decision to sit Ridley, the team's best between-the-tackles runner who leads the Patriots in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns. Ultimately, the string of fumbles apparently was too disconcerting for the Patriots' coaching staff, who may hope that a week away can help Ridley recalibrate as the season's home stretch approaches. There are some who believe fumbling is just as much a mental issue as a physical one, and perhaps time off will be what Ridley needs. With Ridley out, the Patriots look likely to lean on Shane Vereen as their up-tempo back, but then it becomes less clear between Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount. Blount has been further up the depth chart for much of the season, but he too fumbled last week, leading to Bolden serving as a primary ball carrier. Given that each is active, it would come as no surprise to see both earn touches as the between-the-tackles runner when the Patriots turn to more of their two-back or two-tight-end sets. A final note is that safety Steve Gregory, who missed a pair of games due to a broken thumb, returns to the lineup.

Controlling Brady key for Steelers

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
11:00
AM ET
FOXBORO, Mass. -- Here are three keys to victory for the Steelers -- and three things that can't happen if they are to upset the Patriots at Gillette Stadium

The Steelers will win if ...

Brady
Tom Brady picks a different week to play like Tom Brady circa 2012: The Patriots are 6-2 in spite of Brady’s statistical struggles. The eight-time Pro Bowler has completed just over 52 percent of his passes in New England’s last four games, and he has thrown for just nine touchdowns while tossing six interceptions. Brady is still adjusting to his wide receivers, some of whom are both young and new, and he has never looked more human as a quarterback since becoming the Patriots’ starter.

They attack on defense: The Steelers were aggressive the last time these teams met, and they held Brady to a season-low 198 passing yards in a 25-17 win over the Patriots two years ago at Heinz Field. The Steelers surprised the Patriots by playing press coverage, and they were successful in disrupting Brady’s timing with his receivers. They should force the Patriots to adjust to what they are doing, and if the Steelers go down in what is a must-win game they should at least go down swinging.

Le’Veon Bell has his first 100-yard rushing game: The running game regressed in Oakland, but the numbers say that it should rebound this week. The Patriots are No. 31 in rushing defense (130.8 yards allowed per game), and they are still trying to fill holes in the middle of their defense that are a result of season-ending injuries sustained by nose tackle Vince Wilfork and inside linebacker Jerod Mayo. A big game by Bell would go a long way toward stabilizing the offense as well as the Steelers winning in New England for the first time since.

The Steelers will lose if ...

Woodley
Woodley
They can’t get to Brady: The Steelers are averaging 1.4 sacks per game and they need to more than double that number against a quarterback who has been surprisingly vulnerable in the pocket this season. Brady is on pace to get sacked 46 times, and he will have a new right tackle on Sunday. Marcus Cannon takes over for Sebastian Vollmer, who suffered a season-ending leg injury, and the Steelers have to take advantage of this matchup. LaMarr Woodley was unstoppable the last time the Steelers played the Patriots, and the left outside linebacker could be primed for another big game against New England.

The running game flops: The Steelers have gone 15 games without a 100-yard rusher so there are no guarantees for Bell, even if he is playing against one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. The Patriots have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season (the Jets’ Chris Ivory), and they traded for defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga last week to help shore up their run defense. The Steelers have to stay committed to the run, which means they can’t fall behind early as they did last week in Oakland and become one-dimensional on offense. They also have to try to establish a ground game without their best run-blocker as right guard David DeCastro is out with an ankle injury.

They can’t stop the run: The Patriots’ backs aren’t exactly household names, but they are effective. Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden are all averaging more than 4 yards per carry and the Patriots have rushed for more than 120 yards per game. Putting Brady in third-and-long consistently is paramount for the Steelers. And their run defense needs to make a stand after giving up almost 200 rushing yards in Oakland.

Sharing Patriots halftime thoughts

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
2:25
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing a few thoughts at halftime, as the New England Patriots trail the Miami Dolphins, 17-3:

Ugly half of football. This has been one of the Patriots' worst halves of the season. The tone was set by Tom Brady's interception on the team's second offensive play -- an inaccurate delivery to tight end Rob Gronkowski. It was a bad throw by Brady, who might be dealing with discomfort with the middle and ring fingers on his throwing hand.

Where's Ridley? Running back Stevan Ridley, the team's leading rusher in 2012, was limited to six snaps in the first half (not including final kneel-down) as the Patriots went mostly with Brandon Bolden (15 snaps), while mixing in LeGarrette Blount (starter who totaled 5 snaps). A bit of a head-scratcher there.

Cole over Ryan at cornerback. Without top cornerback Aqib Talib, the Patriots started Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington at the position, with Marquice Cole playing the nickelback role. It was Cole who overran receiver Brandon Gibson on the Dolphins' first touchdown. The Patriots used rookie cornerback Logan Ryan in that role last week, but he hasn't played a defensive snap today, with Cole getting the nod over him.

Dolphins sparked by run. Miami ran the ball 21 times in the first half, and you wonder if the same approach would be taken if the Patriots had Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly at defensive tackle, and Jerod Mayo at linebacker. The Patriots just aren't as sturdy in the front seven and the Dolphins are taking it to them. Credit goes to the Dolphins for executing and winning the critical situations.

Injury report. Starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer left with a right leg injury and has already been ruled out. Looked like the season-ending type, but that hasn't been confirmed. That thrusts third-year player Marcus Cannon into the statring mix at right tackle, with veteran Will Svitek now the top backup.

Patriots get the ball. The Patriots had won the opening toss and elected to defer, so they will receive the opening kickoff of the second half. The home crowd booed the Patriots as they kneeled on the ball at the end of the second quarter.

Quick-hit thoughts after first quarter

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
1:50
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After 15 minutes of play, the New England Patriots lead the New York Jets 14-7. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the first quarter.

1. Gronk watch. The Patriots didn't wait long to utilize tight end Rob Gronkowski, as he was on the field for the first offensive series, catching his first pass on a second and 10 play and extending for the first down. He would later catch a 29-yard seam route that came up about a yard short of a touchdown, though his impact was felt immediately. He also had an edge-setting block on the team's first touchdown of the game, a run by Brandon Bolden. Safe to say Gronkowski came ready to play. He played 9 of the team's 12 offensive snaps.

2. Jets score easily on first drive. The Jets started the game with a 25-yard gain on a pass from quarterback Geno Smith to tight end Jeff Cumberland and didn't stop after that. They easily cruised down the field, converting three third downs, capped off with a touchdown throw to slot man Jeremy Kerley. All too easy for New York on their first drive. But...

3. Ryan makes first career pick. Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan made his first career interception, picking off Geno Smith and returning it 79 yards for a score on the Jets' next drive. It was a particularly sweet moment for Ryan because it came in his home state, as the Berlin, N.J., native also attended Rutgers. The Patriots have forced a turnover in 34 straight regular-season games, best in the NFL.

4. Defense turns to Collins. The Patriots have turned to linebacker Jamie Collins to replace Jerod Mayo in the starting lineup, as he's been the third linebacker alongside Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower. The team has also opted for a heavier front, using three defensive tackles and Chandler Jones along the defensive line, with Rob Ninkovich used in stand-up alignments.

5. Penalty box. No Patriots were flagged for penalties during the first quarter.

Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 5

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
1:20
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- A review of four hot issues following the New England Patriots' 13-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanPatriots QB Tom Brady finished Sunday's Week 5 game in Cincinnati with 197 yards, no TDs and one interception.
Offensive struggles: In a script that has been flipped from recent years, it's the defense carrying the offense at this point. Quarterback Tom Brady was held to fewer than 200 yards passing for the second time this season, as the Bengals defense controlled the game at the line of scrimmage. "We scored six points; I don't even remember the last time we've done that," Brady said Monday morning on sports radio WEEI. The last time the Patriots scored fewer points was a 21-0 shutout loss at Miami on Dec. 10, 2006. Looking for a place to start when it comes to turning around the fortunes of the offense? Start up front with the offensive line, where all five starters return and a better performance than what was put forth Sunday in Cincinnati is expected.

Rob Gronkowski's potential return: The tight end has missed the first five games of the regular season, but he could return Sunday against the Saints. The Patriots couldn't convert in their one trip inside the red zone Sunday, and Brady threw incomplete to left tackle-turned-eligible tight end Nate Solder in the end zone. Gronkowski, who figures to be managed upon his return to the field, could at least help in the red zone.

Tommy Kelly and defensive tackle depth: The veteran defensive tackle left Sunday's game with a right knee injury in the fourth quarter and didn't return. Kelly said after the game that "everything was good" with the knee, and he wasn't walking with a limp or with the aid of crutches, although it's still a bit unclear what that means. The Patriots are thin at defensive tackle after losing Vince Wilfork to a season-ending Achilles injury, and if Kelly is sidelined for any period of time, it would further deplete the ranks. Rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones are the only other defensive tackles on the roster, while Marcus Forston and A.J. Francis are on the practice squad.

Banged-up running back group: With veteran Leon Washington leaving Sunday's game with an ankle injury and not returning, Shane Vereen on short-term injured reserve, and Stevan Ridley sidelined Sunday with a knee injury, the Patriots were down to just two running backs -- LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. Both had miscues that hurt the team -- Blount a second-quarter fumble and Bolden two drops. As the passing game struggles to produce consistent results, it would help to be able to turn to the running game. But it's a depleted group and we'll be interested to see if Washington's injury leads the team to consider injured reserve as an option.

Bolden, Blount make RB rotation work

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
6:20
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For the third time in as many weeks, the New England Patriots had a new leading rusher, as running back LeGarrette Blount paced the team with 65 yards on Sunday against his old team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I thought all our backs ran well," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "Brandon [Bolden] did a good job for us but Stevan [Ridley] and LeGarrette, they all had some good runs, some key runs for us."

And while Blount's production was critical, the biggest spark was provided by the second-year back Bolden, playing for the first time this season and amassing 100 yards of total offense (51 rushing, 49 receiving) in a convincing 23-3 win.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Bolden
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesBrandon Bolden couldn't go the distance, but did break free for 46 yards on a third-quarter run.
"Just missing the first few games, if that doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will," Bolden said of his return.

Bolden was the first back to have his number called, as he was on the field to start the game and finished with eight total touches.

He said following the game that he and his fellow running backs don't have a feel for how the Patriots' running back rotation will play out during the course of a game, and, interestingly, said they don't care.

"I can speak for Blount and Ridley. We don't care about that," Bolden said of the mix-and-match. "They call our name, they call our name; if they don't, they don't. But we're going to encourage that guy that does go in to go out there and make the best effort he can. And I think today you got the best effort from all three."

Ridley, who has been the bell-cow back for much of the past two seasons, was limited to just 35 yards on 11 carries. He's struggled out of the gate this season, registering a fumble in Week 1 and gaining just 3.4 yards per carry thus far.

And while a sluggish start for most team's lead back would be a major hindrance to an offense, the Patriots' depth has proved invaluable in the early going.

Bolden said that having three capable running backs stresses a defense.

"That's three different looks a defense has to deal with in the running game and also in the passing game, because all three of us can stay in there for third down, do blitz pick-up and all three of us can take it on first and second down," he said.

The Patriots already have been thinned at the position with third-year back Shane Vereen (wrist) on the injured reserve list with the designation to return (meaning he's out until Week 11), but Sunday was a reaffirmation that the team has power in numbers in the backfield.

Blount was called upon to bleed the clock late in the game, as he had a team-high 10 fourth-quarter carries.

He made the most of his expanded workload, as Blount bumped his season rushing average up from 2.36 to 3.96 yards per carry. His big-bodied frame helped wear down a tired Tampa Bay defense late in the game, likely a sweet escape for Blount facing his old teammates.

Ridley, at least for today, was the least effective of the group, as his touches didn't translate into production.

But in a way, that has defined what makes this Patriots rushing attack effective dating back to last season: the ability to spread the production out from one Sunday to the next.

And on this Sunday it was Bolden leading the way, putting together his most productive day since Week 4 of last season.

Truth be told, Bolden left yards on the field, as he had a 46-yard run -- a career-best -- that could have been even more had he not been caught from behind.

He said with a smile that that was exactly what was going through his head as his path cleared and he ran into open space.

"Don't get caught, but that didn't work for me unfortunately," he added. "But it was great, just to -- like I said, just to get back out and play with everybody."

How the Patriots split reps going forward remains to be seen -- Bolden's big day won't necessarily dictate how he is used a week from now -- but their spread-the-wealth mentality was on display again on Sunday, something this offense will continue to need as it finds its way through the early part of the season.

Locker Room Buzz: New England Patriots

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
6:05
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observed in the locker room after the New England Patriots' 23-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium on Sunday:

Talib's matchup with Jackson draws raves: Cornerback Aqib Talib drew a big media crowd and talked about the coaching staff's plan to have him match up against Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson. "That's love. That's what you want to hear. I take pride in that kind of stuff," Talib said after limiting Jackson to 3 catches for 34 yards in the first half before Jackson left with a rib injury in the second half. Teammates took note that the performance came against Talib's former team. "Aqib came out and played with a chip today," safety Devin McCourty said.

Talib
Talib
Bolden the new face in the offensive backfield: After missing the first two games of the season while recovering from a knee injury, running back Brandon Bolden made his debut and was on the field for 26 snaps (including penalties). Used as big part of a three-man rotation alongside Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount, the second-year runner from Ole Miss was the final player to speak with reporters in the locker room as he was swarmed by a large crowd. "Just missing the first few games, if that doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will," he said of his return.

With kids at his side, Kelly looks ahead: Veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly had his two sons, Tommy Jr. (8) and Jamison (5), by his side as he spoke with reporters. The Patriots' defense had three fourth-down stops in the game, and Kelly said when an offense goes for it on fourth down, it's almost like an insult to the defense. Then, without prompting, he looked ahead to next Sunday's game against the Falcons. "That's a big-time offense," he said. "They're going to throw the ball so as a defensive lineman, your eyes kind of light up. Julio Jones ... Roddy White ... they're a lot to handle."

What to watch for: Bills-Patriots

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
3:00
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Excitement will be high at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, when the Buffalo Bills host the New England Patriots in their regular season opener.

The Bills have put the pressure on their division rivals in New England's last two visits to Western New York. Two seasons ago, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw four interceptions and the Bills came away with a 34-31 victory. And last season, the Bills opened a 21-7 lead before the flood gates opened and the Patriots came away with a 52-28 win.

This season, the Bills have started new, with a rookie quarterback (EJ Manuel) and first-year head coach (Doug Marrone) both making their debuts on Sunday.

Here's what to watch for:

1. Do Bills take deep shots early? The Bills aired it out on their first plays of their final two preseason games, which is something they could try again on Sunday. Manuel has a strong arm, the Bills have speed at receiver, and the secondary isn't the strength of the Patriots' defense. Connecting early on a deep ball might make the home crowd a factor early. Conversely, the Bills could try to stay conservative in the early going, trying to develop a rhythm in their running game with C.J. Spiller to control the ball. The early read on offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is that he isn't afraid to take risks, and the best bet is he'll throw everything he has at the Patriots.

2. Can Mario Williams be a factor? After a foot injury caused the defensive end to be limited this preseason, he has his first shot at getting back on track. Like the play on offense, getting sacks and causing turnovers on defense will keep the crowd in the game, and Williams is the Bills' man for that job. The Patriots have a solid left tackle in Nate Solder, but he will face a challenge if one-on-one against Williams.

3. How does the secondary hold up? The Bills will be without cornerback Stephon Gilmore and likely safety Jairus Byrd, the best two players in their secondary. It's undoubtedly something the Patriots will target, but New England has question marks of their own at receiver and tight end. With Rob Gronkowski unlikely to play, their top three passing options will be veteran Danny Amendola and undrafted rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld. It's a match-up of unknown vs. unknown, and who has the upper hand could go a long way to deciding the game's outcome.

4. Can the Bills stop the run? The Patriots put up historic rushing numbers in their Week 4 visit last season, with Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden combining for 243 yards on the ground. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine hopes to shore up the Bills' run defense, but in the last outing for his defensive starters on Aug. 24, Redskins runners combined for over 200 yards. If the Patriots decide to target the Bills in the passing game, their run defense will have less importance, but either way, they will need to find a way to slow down what can still be a potent Patriots offense.

Snaps: RBs learn cost of fumbling

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
8:55
AM ET
DETROIT -- In tabulating the snaps played by skill-position players with the first-unit offense, one aspect stood out -- after losing fumbles, Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen didn't play again for the rest of the half.

Here is the breakdown of snaps played (includes penalties, not half-ending kneel-down):

QB Tom Brady -- 46 of 46
WR Julian Edelman -- 45 of 46
WR Aaron Dobson -- 31 of 46
WR Kenbrell Thompkins -- 31 of 46
TE Jake Ballard -- 27 of 46
RB Stevan Ridley -- 21 of 46
TE Zach Sudfeld -- 19 of 46
TE Michael Hoomanawanui -- 16 of 46
RB Shane Vereen -- 10 of 46
FB James Develin -- 9 of 46
RB Leon Washington -- 8 of 46
WR Josh Boyce -- 6 of 46
RB LeGarrette Blount -- 4 of 46
RB Brandon Bolden -- 3 of 46

QUICK-HIT THOUGHTS: Julian Edelman filled in for the hobbled Danny Amendola, playing every snap but the short-yardage fourth-and-1 run in the second quarter when the Patriots called on three tight ends and a fullback and running back. ... Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins opened the game in the two-receiver package, with Aaron Dobson coming on as the third receiver. The Patriots utilized the three-receiver package quite a bit, even turning to a four-wide look at times. ... At tight end, Jake Ballard and Zach Sudfeld opened as the top combination. Ballard has gradually upped his workload this preseason, with his 27 snaps a high. ... At running back, Stevan Ridley was the clear No. 1 option.

Rapid Reaction: Lions 40, Patriots 9

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
11:02
PM ET

 
DETROIT -- Rapid reaction from the the New England Patriots' 40-9 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field:

Ugly offensive football. This was a step back for the Patriots’ offense. When the clock reads 11:38 remaining in the second quarter, and a team already has three lost fumbles and thrown an interception, that pretty much says it all. Rookie free-agent tight end Zach Sudfeld and running backs Brandon Bolden (second year) and Shane Vereen (third year) had the fumbles, while the interception came on a Tom Brady-to-Aaron Dobson slant in which Dobson got caught up before getting to the spot. This performance had similarities to the Patriots' 34-10 loss to the Lions in the third preseason game in 2011. The Patriots went on to win 13 games that season, which is a reminder to keep preseason results in context.

Encouraging defensive football. If there was one positive that trumped all for the Patriots, it was the team’s situational defense. The Lions were 2-of-9 on third down in the first half when the top defense was on the field, and three of the stops came at the Patriots’ 5-, 19- and 13-yard lines. It could have been much worse for New England if the defense didn’t stiffen like it did (it was 16-3 Lions at halftime). Yes, it helped that the Lions were without receiver Calvin Johnson, but it’s also notable that the Patriots didn’t have starting defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (he was seen getting stretched out by the team’s strength coach before the game) and linebacker Jerod Mayo played only in the dime defense.

Brady’s preseason workload. Brady played the entire first half, totaling 46 snaps (including penalties, but not a half-ending kneel-down). He was sacked twice and threw the one interception. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this is the last we see of the Patriots quarterback this preseason, as he’s played a total of 87 preseason snaps -- 16 against the Eagles, 25 versus the Buccaneers and the 46 against the Lions. Brady had been nearly flawless entering this game (18-of-20); this performance wasn’t as decisive as we saw the team's promising young pass-catchers all have their struggles at times.

Amendola doesn’t suit up; Edelman fills his role. Receiver Danny Amendola remained home in Foxborough, not making the trip to Detroit. Amendola has been hobbled, but it is not known if his injury is to his ankle or foot. A source previously said that the Patriots don’t have long-term concerns with Amendola and he is fully expected to be ready to go Sept. 8 when the Patriots visit the Bills in the regular-season opener. In Amendola’s place, fifth-year receiver Julian Edelman played every snap in the first half except for a fourth-down, short-yardage run. He had three catches for 18 yards.

No action for Tebow. No. 3 quarterback Tim Tebow did not play, with Brady going the entire first half and No. 2 quarterback Ryan Mallett staying on for the second half. The crowd at Ford Field was chanting "Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!" in hopes of seeing him in the fourth quarter. Before the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Bill Belichick said he had an idea of about 80 percent of the team's 53-man roster. Tebow would seemingly fall in the other 20 percent, and with him not playing, there was no action to analyze to potentially sway the decision at this point.

Injury report. The Patriots had one significant injury -- rookie free-agent defensive tackle Cory Grissom left the game early in the fourth quarter and was having trouble putting pressure on his left leg as he was helped to the locker room. That is a position where the Patriots are thin depth-wise. ... Lions running Montell Owens, the former Maine Black Bear, injured his knee and did not return. Starting safety Glover Quin left in the first half with a hip injury and did not return.

Quick hits. Starting right guard Dan Connolly, who suited up for the first time coming back from offseason shoulder injury, played the team’s second, third and fourth series (11 snaps total). ... Starting safety Devin McCourty, who also suited up for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery, started and played the entire first half (16 snaps). ... The following players didn't suit up for the game. ... The Patriots got a long look at rookie free-agent defensive tackle Joe Vellano (Maryland), who started in place of Wilfork. ... Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who entered 2-of-5 on field goals (with misses from 44, 50 and 53 yards), converted on his lone attempt, a 31-yarder. ... Lions tight end Joseph Fauria, the nephew of former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria, scored a touchdown in the third quarter and followed it with a patented Fauria spike through his legs. ... Summing this one up: One of the ugliest Patriots preseason games in recent memory.
DETROIT -- Sharing some thoughts at halftime of the New England Patriots’ preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, as the Patriots trail 16-3:

This one is pretty straightforward.

Terrible ball security by the Patriots, with three fumbles -- by rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld, second-year running back Brandon Bolden and third-year running back Shane Vereen. Add in a Tom Brady interception on a pass intended for rookie receiver Aaron Dobson, and it was ugly.

On the Brady-to-Dobson interception, it’s one of those plays where it was difficult to decipher what mostly led to the end result. Could Dobson have fought through traffic? Could Brady, who appeared to be throwing to a spot, have made a better decision? Or was it simply good defense?

Regardless, this isn’t the type of offensive football the Patriots hoped to play. A team isn’t going to win many games, especially on the road, playing this sloppily.

One positive that coaches will probably see when they review the first half: Rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (drop) and Dobson both had a play or two that didn't go as planned, yet both showed toughness to come back and make some plays. That’s a big part of what the preseason is about, especially for rookies.

Still, the overall feel brought back memories of the Patriots’ third preseason game against the Lions here in 2011. That game wasn't pretty either. The Patriots went on to win 13 games that season, so it's a reminder to keep these games in their proper context.

Now for the defense.

If there was a primary positive in this game, it was the performance on third down. The unit stiffened when it had to and kept the Patriots in the game. It wasn’t all perfect -- running back Reggie Bush’s 67-yard catch-and-run on third-and-10 was a big play to set up the Lions’ first field goal -- but that’s the overall type of effort required when the offense is having a tough day.

Yes, it helped that the Lions didn’t have receiver Calvin Johnson, who didn’t suit up. But it’s also worth noting that the Patriots didn’t have defensive tackle Vince Wilfork on the field and that linebacker Jerod Mayo played only in the dime package.

No major injuries for the Patriots, who are expected to play their starters into the third quarter.

The Lions get the ball to open the third quarter.

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