October 1, 2016

The Sunday Links, Part One

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

Bruce Allen continues to expand the offerings over at Boston Sports Media Watch, and today, Guest Blogger Dave offers weekend links, and a look at who the experts are picking in the Monday Night Football matchup between the Pats and the Cincinnati Bengals. For more Pats news, you know what to do: hit patriotslinks.com.

We’ll be back tomorrow morning with game day links. In the meantime, with thanks to the public servants at the506.com, check these TV coverage maps for CBS’s doubleheader coverage today (1PM, 4 PM), as well as the 1 PM game on Fox.

College Scout, September 29, 2007

logoby Greg Doyle
[email protected]

The college season zooms along this Saturday with one upset already in the books, with South Florida beating #5 West Virginia on Friday night. Let’s take a look at some of the top games this week and the players to focus on.

Oklahoma at Colorado (1:30 PM Fox Sports Network): Oklahoma is off to a great 4-0 start, winning by an average of 50 per game. It’s unlikely Colorado can keep up with them, but they are improved so they should keep it within 40 or so. Oklahoma only starts four seniors total, so this team could be a powerhouse for a few years.

Oklahoma RB Allen Patrick (#23): A shifty, smallish running back who is averaging 9.0 yards a carry. Splits time and only comes in at 190 lbs, but he is elusive and quick. Doesn’t appear to be a full-time back and hasn’t caught many passes or returned kicks, so that will hurt him. Still, he has talent and has the ability and athleticism to learn those skills. If he shows some pass catching ability at the All-Star games and the combine, the Patriots could look at him as a Kevin Faulk replacement type.

Oklahoma WR Malcolm Kelly (#4): He is only a junior, but one of the most talented receivers in college football so he could end up in the draft. He has it all, size (6’4″ 217), good speed and great hands. Incredibly dangerous around the end zone where he knows how to use his size to get the ball. Had 10 touchdowns last year and already has 7 in 17 catches this year. That surely will interest the Patriots.

Oklahoma DE Alonzo Dotson (#91): The name Alonzo always reminds me of “Midnight Run” for some reason. Agent Alonzo Mosely. In any event, Dotson is a first-year starter with limited experience. He has outside linebacker size at 6’3″ 252 and has 3 sacks already in his first extended playing time, so he is showing some potential. If he can demonstrate speed and the ability to play up, perhaps the Patriots might consider him as a second day guy they can convert to linebacker.

Colorado LB Jordon Dizon (#44): An extremely productive linebacker who racked up 130 tackles last year and is off to a very fast start again this year. A leader on defense, but probably too small for the Patriots at 6’0″ 225 lbs. Still, he’ll probably be the type of high energy player who sticks with someone in the NFL.

Colorado CB Terrence Wheatley (#26): A top-notch corner with a knack for big interceptions. He’ll play for someone on Sundays, despite his smallish size. Has 4.37 speed and was 1st Team All-Big 12 last year. Can return kicks and somewhat reminds of Ellis Hobbs.

USC at Washington (8:00 PM ABC): The #1 Trojans travel to Washington in a Pac-10 game that should feature a lot of scoring. Washington nearly pulled the upset last year, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can hang in there again this year as they are improved.

USC QB John David Booty (#10): Of course any discussion of USC begins with Heisman candidate Booty. Has all the tools, but also is surrounded by great talent. He has more natural ability than previous USC Heisman QB Matt Leinart. Off to a fast start this year completing 70% of his passes with 9 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.

USC RB Chauncey Washington (#23): USC’s leading runner last year when he ran for over 700 yards, he is only third on the team so far this season. USC rotates backs a lot, still Washington has 128 yards and 5.5 a carry. Talented, fairly big runner who will probably be drafted. Never been a dominant college player, but has talent. Has had some academic problems.

USC LB Thomas Williams (#41): Hey, the Patriots picked one USC backup linebacker last draft in Oscar Lua, maybe they’ll do it again. The fact is Williams is a talented guy with NFL size at linebacker (6’3″ 242) but trapped behind perhaps the best trio of college linebackers ever to play together (Brian Cushing, Rey Mauluga and Keith Rivers). Did start 6 games his sophomore year and played some fullback last year. Has been productive when he got a chance and is an excellent special teams player. This is the kind of versatile, talented yet under the radar guy the Patriots will love.

Washington WR Anthony Russo (#5): Has 80 career catches including 18 already this year. A possession receiver, he can return kicks as well. Not a top NFL prospect, but been pretty productive so will get a look. His ability to return kicks and possibly cover them are what gives him a chance because he doesn’t stand out in any other area, size, speed or production.

Washington WR Marcel Reece (#3): Runs smooth, but his size (240 lbs) suggests he is more of an h-back type than a wide receiver. A JUCO transfer, he is getting his first extended time this year and is producing. His size makes him a possible project as he has wide receiver skills, but could possibly convert to tight end or h-back.

Thursday October 4, 2007

Kentucky at South Carolina (8:00 PM ESPN): A good game next Thursday night on ESPN as the surprsingly undefeated Heroes of Kige Ramsey, the University of Kentucky, come into South Carolina to face the Gamecocks.
 
Kentucky QB Andre Woodson (#3): Very impressive as a QB. Has great size at 6’6″ 230 and can really scramble around to buy time and throw on the run. Shows a great arm and nice touch as well, he is very underrated and doesn’t get the attention he deserves. Has yet to throw an interception in 4 games and had a 31-7 TD-INT ratio last year. He’ll be drafted high.

Kentucky WR Keenan Burton (#19): A good sized receiver at 6’2″ 205 who was 1st Team All-SEC last year. Caught 77 balls for over 1,000 yards last year as Woodson’s go-to guy. Off to a good start this year. More of a possession receiver type, he needs to bulk up a bit to be a top-flight NFL receiver. His speed will determine where he goes. Returns kicks.

Kentucky LB Wesley Woodyard (#16): Another highly productive college linebacker who is too small to play for the Patriots. Still, his production and motor should land him in the NFL somewhere. A tackling machine.
 
South Carolina QB Blake Mitchell (#12): A pretty good college QB who doesn’t do anything great. Doesn’t have a great arm and average size and decision making. Could be a backup in NFL.

South Carolina LB Casper Brinkley (#51): A very big linebacker who may fit in with the Patriots. Weighs 257 lbs and is productive. Was the leading tackler last season and second so far this year. Also added 5 sacks last year. He has the size and athleticism the Patriots look for in their linebackers and he’ll be a first day pick, probably first round. Perhaps falls into the late first round, depending on how he tests speed and strength wise.

Patriots Roundtable, 9/28/07

logoby the Patriots Daily Staff
[email protected]

This week, the Patriots will try to go to 4-0 and stay atop the AFC when they travel to Cincinnati to take on the 1-2 Bengals on Monday Night Football. Let’s bring in the Roundtable gang for a look at the game. 

Big picture: the Pats look pretty great right now. Small picture: what are their weaknesses?

Bruce Allen: Let’s see, Red Zone defense, Coach Belichick is 0-3 in challenges this season, the linebackers are old, the secondary has a history of being fragile, what else? Who am I kidding? None of these things are major. Injuries have to be the biggest worry of this club, especially to key positions. (Like, ummm, QUARTERBACK).

Greg Doyle: The defense hasn’t been dominant yet. And as Belichick pointed out this week, opposing teams are 5 for 5 in scoring touchdowns when in the red zone. So there is certainly room for improvement there. And their punting, albeit with a small sample size, hasn’t been overwhelming and it remains to be seen how Chris Hanson does here when the weather turns bad. Belichick did complement him this week, however, so he must be doing something right.

Tim Jordan: I can’t say it’s a weakness definitively at this point, but they still haven’t proven anything in the secondary. Cotchery and Coles had 14 catches for over 100 yards with Chad Pennington throwing to them and Gates had 7 catches and a TD. In the Bills game the secondary also tackled very poorly on Lynch’s 8 yard TD run to give up the only points of the game. The Bengals have a very proficient passing game with great WR’s (Chad Johnson may be the best in the game right now and Housh would be a #1 on 20 teams) and one of the best quarterbacks in the game. The secondary gets its biggest test come Monday.

Travis Graham: Well, the Pats are last in punting average, although it’s unofficial because they haven’t punted enough for it to count. Seriously, even if injuries hit this team they could still get by. They have adequate depth at every position for now. They would have to have multiple injuries at one position for it to have an effect.

Let’s get to Monday night’s game. First, will the Patriots offense dominate the Cincinnati defense (28th in YPG, 28th in points allowed) as expected?

Bruce: Unless some reverse lock theory comes into play, than yes, the Patriots will have their way with the Bengal defense on Monday night. I just don’t see how they can match up. It sounds like shameless homering, but really, based on what we’ve seen thus far from each team, how can you imagine anything other than the Patriots offense shredding the Cincinnati D?

Greg: Yeah, they might, unless they make mistakes and turn the ball over. Its possible that could happen, the crowd will be loud and the Bengals will be fired up at home after last season’s big Patriots win. They haven’t rushed the passer much this year. They haven’t covered the pass very well. They just have been bad. But sometimes when you least expect it, teams in the NFL come thru with big efforts. Something tells me the Bengals defense will be unexpectedly disruptive this week and put forth a big effort. Plus, the Pats are due for a sloppy game in which they turn it over. They should move the ball and score, they are really good on offense. But they need to be careful and not get too unattentive to details. Knowing the meaning of former Belichick assistant Chuck Bresnahan’s (the Benglas Defensive Coordinator) colored signs should help. Oops, they can’t look at that!

Scott Benson: One thing I noticed about them is they get a lot of turnovers for a team giving up 31 points a game. Nine (four int’s, four forced fumbles and fumble recoveries) in three games seems like a respectable total to me. They seem to always be standing there when the ball takes an odd bounce. If the Pats are sloppy Monday night, these guys will pick up on it – it’s their only hope.

Tim: Belichick mentioned their ballhawking ability in his Wednesday press conference and that is exactly the type of thing that could lose the game for them. The Patriots have been surgically efficient on offense through three games, but if Cincinnati forces a couple turnovers they could lose this game. Greg’s warning about the crowd is a good point, strange things happen in Monday night games. I think this defense will take some chances and come out with alot of emotion. They get paid too, as they say.

Kevin Thomas: Six of those turnovers, including all 4 fumble recoveries, came in the opener against Baltimore, who played an incredibly sloppy game but still probably deserved to win by multiple scores. I’m not sure that’s enough to say that they have a propensity to turn over the opposition–probably more a case of good fortune combined with one miserable performance by a team (Baltimore) not known for its offensive prowess. That said, watching that Bengals-Ravens game, it did seem like the Ravens got themselves somewhat unhinged by the crowd in the Queen City, and conversely the Bengals appeared to feed off it. The Bengals have now lost two straight on the road, and will be coming home this week to what should be another raucous prime-time crowd. They are also in somewhat of a desperate situation, as another loss could put them pretty deep in the hole for a playoff spot. This will also be the first time the Patriots play on the road since the camera scandal broke, which should add some extra fire to the already hostile crowd. A slow start like the Patriots had against Buffalo on Sunday, and things could start to snowball against them.

Travis: I think that the Pats will play ball control in this one. The Cinci defense is last in the NFL in stopping the run with 5.4ypc. The Pats should run the ball to chew up the clock and keep Palmer off the field.

Will the Patriots defense be able to contain the Bengals offense (4th in scoring, 5th in PPG) enough to give Tom Brady a margin of error?

Bruce: I think they will. If Rudi Johnson is unable to play than the Patriots can really concentrate on the Bengal receivers. Having Randall Gay as the nickel back is a nice option with both Samuel and Hobbs playing now, the health of the secondary has held up so far (knock on wood) and I hope it continues, as this group has some shutdown potential out there.

Greg: The Bengals are really good on offense, no doubt. But with Rudi Johnson banged up and possibly out at running back, its possible they could become very one dimensional. And that will hurt them as the Patriots usually feast on one-dimensional teams. If a back up comes trotting out at running back, the Patriots will see blood in the water and know they can stop the run and force even a great QB like Carson Palmer into mistakes.

Travis: This is going to be the interesting part. The Pats haven’t faced an offense this good as of yet. San Diego was supposed to be good, but I haven’t seen it with the new management in control this year. The Pats DBs have looked good so far, but have they really been tested? The Bills and the Chargers have very poor WRs and the Jets were able to move the ball pretty well through the air. It would be huge if Johnson doesn’t suit up because there isn’t much depth at RB. If that’s the case, the Pats could put most of the pressure on the outside in order to stop the two big receivers. The Pats won’t have to worry about being abused in the middle by the Bengals’ tight end R. Kelly since he’s caught only one short pass per game this year.

Kevin: I was shocked at how bad the Patriots made the Bengals offense look last year, especially after how effectively the Bengals moved the ball against them in their prior meeting in 2004. I expect that the Bengals will do much better this time around. As others have noted, lesser offenses have been able to drive the field against this defense in spurts. I worry that the Bengals will be able to do it regularly. Whether Rudi Johnson plays or not is kind of irrelevant, in my opinion. The big challenge is going to be pressuring Carson Palmer and minimizing breakdowns in coverage. This defense is eventually going to be very good, but I do think they are going through some growing pains as they integrate some new faces and while Asante Samuel gets back to full speed. I’d also watch to see how James Sanders performs against a very good passing team. He could be the weak link on Monday.

What about on the sidelines? I thought Marvin Lewis was supposed to be a defensive wizard. Then why does his defense suck?

Bruce: As an old friend used to say, maybe it’s not the X’s and O’s but rather the Jimmys and Joes. Marvin Lewis was a defensive wizard in Baltimore. He had the studs there that he does not have here with the Bengals. Just thinking off the top of my head, I think of three coordinators who were considered wizards as assistants, who then when they got head coaching jobs, their teams were the exact opposite. I think of Brian Billick, who was supposed to be a offensive genius with Minnesota, but goes to Baltimore and his teams have trouble scoring and are known for defense. Tony Dungy was a defensive minded coach as a coordinator in Minnesota – and then as a head coach with Tampa, he then comes to Indy and presides over one of the top offenses of our times. Finally, Lewis is a defensive genius with Baltimore and then has a high scoring club in Cincinnati who can’t stop anyone. Personnel obviously has so much to do with coaching styles.

Travis: It seems to me the biggest problem is their defensive line. They just aren’t that good. The DE Justin Smith is pretty good, but he’s working with JAGS who can’t stop the run or get pressure on the QB. If your DL can’t do those two things, nothing is going to work.

Tim: One of my rules is to never denigrate Virgil look-a-likes. Lewis’s head coaching career arc is a good example of how hard it is to sustain success in the NFL. He was a Coach of the Year candidate as a rookie head coach (actually was a bride’s maid to Belichick that year) and took a 2 win team to .500, the Bengals first non-losing season in 7 years. He was the toast of the NFL. Since then he’s 12-36. Are you listening, Eric Mangini? The two of you had identical resumes heading into your second years as head coaches, even down to the runner-up for CoY and 6 win improvement (except Lewis actually won something as a defensive coordinator prior to getting the gig). At least someone will be willing to hire Lewis when his time in Cincinnati comes to a close. You’re going to be forging permission slips for high schoolers wondering where it all went wrong.
 
The Pats playing on Monday night means we get all day Sunday to take in the rest of the NFL. Any games catch your eye?

Kevin: I’m curious about the Denver/Indy game. This could be another tough test for the Colts, after two close calls against divisional opponents on the road. I keep waiting for the Super Bowl hangover effect to hit the Colts, but so far it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. I also want to see how Denver’s vaunted cornerback duo of Champ Bailey and Dre Bly match up against Harrison and Wayne. The Jets and Buffalo play for 2nd place in the AFC East. That seems like a snoozefest, and I’ll be shocked if the Jets don’t win handily. The more worthwhile game is probably on FOX, where we’ll get another look at the Cowboys (vs. St. Louis) before their big early-season tilt with the Patriots two weeks from now. Because of recent history, I know I tend to fall into the trap of automatically assuming the top 4-5 teams in the NFL are AFC teams, but Dallas looks pretty impressive. Eventually, the AFC/NFC pendulum will have to swing back to the senior circuit, right? Could we be there yet?

Tim: I’m going to take advantage of the schedule and take back my weekend days. I’ll be tuning into the NFC East game on Sunday night – the Eagles and Giants are usually involved in entertaining games.

Garber on Belichick

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

In case you missed it earlier in the week, ESPN’s Gene Garber takes a look at Pats coach Bill Belichick in the wake of Spy-Gate, or Camera-Gate, or whatever we’re calling it now.

I thought this piece was noteable in that Garber actually seems to view Belichick as a human being, which has probably gotten him drummed out of the Press Corps already. Further, I believe this is the first time (at least this week) that someone has compared Belichick to both Niccolo Machiavelli AND Lawrence Taylor. I admit, I’ve heard Nixon and Machiavelli, and Nixon and Taylor, but never Machiavelli and Taylor.

Which means this piece is, well, groundbreaking. Dig this:

More than anything, Belichick is committed to winning. Frankly, it’s all he cares about. Every minute of his time is weighed by its ability to effect a positive result. It is not unreasonable to compare Belichick to Niccolo Machiavelli, the Renaissance political philosopher. In his well-known work, “The Prince,” Machiavelli argues that successful rulers, while remaining above reproach in the public eye, may sometimes cross the line into evil for the public good. In Belichick’s mind, if the Patriots are a public trust, the ends justify the means.

Most teams spend considerable time trying to decipher the opposition’s defensive signals, using conventional advance scouts and the study of broadcast footage. But that is slow and ploddingly inefficient work. Capturing those signals on film speeds up the process and eliminates the possibility of error. Belichick made a point of saying that the Patriots had not used the information gleaned from videotape in the same games it was shot. Although that hardly excuses the illegal practice, it prompted Belichick to claim that his mistake was in the “interpretation” of the rules.

When details of the signal-stealing emerged a few weeks ago, I thought of something Belichick once told me about Taylor. Despite his bouts with drug use and his sometimes messy personal life, Taylor always gave his best effort — such that it sometimes was — on the field.

“Lawrence completely sells out on every play,” Belichick said. “He doesn’t care about his body — or anyone else’s for that matter. He will do anything it takes to win. Anything.

“The same thing that makes him [an unlikable] human being,” Belichick added in a telling aside, “makes him one of the greatest players who ever lived.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I believe the same is true of Bill Belichick.

That’s heavy, man. And that’s what we here at Patriots Daily are all about. The heaviness.

Tom and the Mechanics

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

Our pal Bill Barnwell is tackling a cross-country move this week, so here’s a few morning notes to tide you over until his return to PD.

The Patriots have begun to prepare in earnest for the Cincinnati Bengals, and Laurence Maroney, the Patriots defense and former Bengal Kelley Washington are all in the spotlight this morning.

In our feature of the day, Mike Reiss visits with Tom Martinez, Tom Brady’s “throwing motion” guy. This is what happens when you get as big as Tom Brady. You get an entourage, with people to take care of things for you, like wash your car or take care of your dry cleaning and things. If you get big enough, you get a “throwing motion” guy.

“Hey, how’s my throwing motion look?”

“Great, Tom, great. Oh, shit, dude, we’re late for your mud wrap.”

Anyway, Tom (the quarterback guy, not the motion guy) says this is the best he’s been fundamentally, which Martinez attributes to improved mechanics, but not without throwing Doug Gabriel and Reche Caldwell and them under the bus a final time too. The popular theory is that better receivers makes for better throws (like on Randy Moss’s stunning one handed 45 yard grab on Sunday), but look, this week’s AFC Offensive Player of the Week bounced a few in front of open receivers last year too.

But I digress.

Make sure you check out patriotslinks.com for more this morning.

Moss Appeal

logoby Dan Snapp
[email protected]

Randy Moss for a fourth-round pick. Nearly five months later, and the sound of it still begs disbelief.

Randy Freaking Moss for a fourth-round pick!

What were the Raiders thinking? Certainly they had to get rid of him, as the team was unhappy, he was unhappy, and his production didn’t merit  the burgeoning numbers on the remainder of his contract. But trading the most electrifying player of his era to the powerhouse Patriots for a measly fourth-round pick?

Heck, if they traded him to the Packers instead, Colts GM Bill Polian probably would have anted up a second-rounder himself to seal the deal.

Within weeks of the acquisition, former Raiders coach Art Shell and his erstwhile bed&breakfast owner-turned-offensive coordinator Tom Walsh were telling any who’d listen that Moss couldn’t run anymore. The once and future proprietor of the Seven-Step Drop Inn also told Ron Borges, “Randy Moss is a player whose skills are diminishing, and he’s in denial of those eroding skills.”

Eroding skills? Sounds like the words of a man who’s out of football.

Moss, of course, has turned Patriots football on its head, completely changing the team’s offensive dynamic. Before, the talk was about Tom Brady’s even distribution to multiple receivers. Today, Moss and Wes Welker each get about 27 percent of the looks. It’s not the “Randy Ratio” but it signals a significant change in New England. With 22 receptions, 403 yards, 5 touchdowns and three straight 100-yard games, he’s off to the best start of any receiver in Patriots history.

A great year for Brady used to be 28 TDs, 14  INTs, and a 63% completion rate. With 10 TDs, 1 pick, and a 79% completion clip through three games, he’s set to destroy his previous highs.

The big hypothetical – “What would happen if Brady had Peyton Manning’s weapons” – is being played out before our eyes. We knew Brady was great in a Joe Montana “All he does is win” vein, but never in a Dan Marino statistical one. What if he’s both? Moss is helping to show Brady at his true potential.
   
“It wasn’t the Moss of old,” Phil Simms told us during the opener against the Jets.

Moss had just broken open on a crossing pattern, then took in Brady’s pass for an 18-yard gain, leaving Simms’ partner Jim Nantz lunging for superlatives. “The Moss of old,” Simms argued, “Would have grabbed that and you would have been, ‘Annnnd that’s a touchdown.'”

Simms was right. Moss lacks that overdrive he possessed as a young player. It was obvious on that play, on the 33-yarder later down the right sideline, and even on his 51-yard score.

Even without the top-end speed, he’s still the best receiver on the field. He’s got it all: size, speed, hands, moves, smarts, leaping ability and still enough speed to get the job done as a deep threat. He’s caught 22 of the 24 balls targeted for him. And as Moss has showed each week on some of his more spectacular catches: even when he’s not open, he’s open.

His football IQ is what attracted Belichick, who noted Moss understands double coverage as well as any player in the league. “He attacks all three levels of the field — short, intermediate, deep,” Belichick said. “Any time a player puts multiple pressure points on a defense, it’s hard, it’s stress.”

So how would Bill Belichick defend Moss?

He had two recent opportunities – vs. the Vikings in 2002 and against the Raiders in 2005 – and enjoyed little success. The Patriots pressed Moss at the line, and double-covered him often, but Moss still had 13 catches for 222 yards and a TD over the two games.

The Pats easily won both, and maybe that’s the point. Maybe like Belichick’s “If Thurman Thomas runs for 100, we’ll win the game” pronouncement in Super Bowl XXV, the plan is to let Randy get his, but we’ll stop everything else.

But then that’s also the key behind Belichick bringing him to New England, where stopping everything else was already a chore.

Inside Gillette

logoby Christopher Price
[email protected]

The Patriots’ offensive line certainly doesn’t seek out glory — after most games, they’re usually the first group showered and out of the locker room, racing to escape the media horde.

But after Sunday’s game, it was a far different story. The linemen who revel in their anonymity got their chance at the spotlight after turning in their third straight impressive outing of the season. In the 38-7 win over the Bills, they held sackmaster Aaron Schobel to just 1/2 a sack, and Buffalo to just one total sack on the afternoon. In addition, they gave quarterback Tom Brady enough time to throw for 311 yards and four touchdowns, and cleared the way for running back Laurence Maroney to finish with 103 yards.

“The key to the game offensively was the offensive line,” said Brady after Sunday’s win. “The way they performed today was exceptional. It’s kind of what they’ve been doing all year.

“They did a great job.”

It’s a great time to be a New England offensive lineman. Unsolicited, the quarterback has singled them out for praise in two of his first three postgame media sessions this year, and they’ve earned every bit of it. They’ve done their part when it comes to keeping the chains moving — they’re one of the biggest reasons the Patriots have just 11 negative plays through the first three games. As a group, they’ve committed just one false start and been flagged for zero holding calls. And they’ve allowed just three sacks.

All this while working with a rotation at right guard — a shoulder injury to Stephen Neal has forced them to use three different starters at the position: Neal, Billy Yates and Russ Hochstein. (The rest of the starters — left tackle Matt Light, left guard Logan Mankins, center Dan Koppen and right tackle Nick Kaczur — have pretty much stayed the same, with Ryan O’Callaghan serving as an extra blocking tight end several times through the first three games.)

As the senior member of the group — he’s been with the Patriots since 2001 — Light is usually left to serve as the unofficial spokesman. He was happy to do so Sunday.

“The line is working well together, and obviously, our running backs were on track today,” said Light. “They saw all the holes and they hit them. They did a great job running the ball.”

In particular, Light had reason to be proud. Over the years, speed rushers like Schobel and Miami’s Jason Taylor were his personal kryptonite, but this outing was different. Light was helped by several things on Sunday, including the fact that the Patriots ran several short passes in an attempt to blunt the speed rushing talents of Schobel. In addition, there were several different blocking combinations — we counted eight different series of blockers, including one where linebacker Mike Vrabel lined up against him in a goal-line package as a tight end — that kept Schobel out of the New England backfield much of the afternoon.

“Matt [Light] did a great job over there on my left side,” Brady said. “At the same time, I think we’re trying to scheme things up so he’s not coming off the edge all day, and you always try to keep those pass-rushes accountable for those pass-rushers, because they can ruin a game.”

The Patriots did do some things to throw off the Bills’ rushers, but in the end, it was Light who faced Schobel more than anyone. By our account, the two went head-to-head 29 times, and using a wholly unscientific grading method — giving Light a check if he kept Schobel out of the action and giving Schobel a check if he had an effect on the play, like a tackle or sack — Light got the better of him 23 of the 29 times.

“I give him a lot of credit,” Light said of Schobel. “He’s a great pass rusher. He’s a relentless style of rusher that you have to take into account when you play him. He’s a good player. We’ll see him again.”

“They did a good job with him,” Brady said of the offensive line and it’s work on Schobel. “He’s a great player, a Pro Bowl player, but our offensive line is shutting it down this year.”

FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK

1. If there’s any good-natured trash talk between Chad Johnson and Bill Belichick. Before last season’s Patriots-Bengals game, the Cincinnati wide receiver jokingly pleaded for New England to leave him in single coverage. Belichick responded in kind, with his tongue firmly in his cheek: “Tell him we’d cover him one-on-one all the time, but he pushes off more than any receiver in the league. He must be paying off the officials not to call it, so we’re going to have to double-cover him some. … Not that he can get open.”

2. If Tom Brady can keep up his record-setting pace. Brady has completed 79.5 percent of his passes this season — the record is held by Ken Anderson, who finished the 1982 season with a 70.55 completion rate in the West Coast Offense. He should at least stay close to his average against a suspect Cincinnati defense.

3. If Randy Moss can one-up the performance he submitted against the Bills. Moss was at his best against Buffalo, especially on his 45-yard thunderclap of a touchdown reception down the near sideline that finished the scoring. Last Sunday, he finished with five catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns, and became the first receiver in NFL history to gain at least 100 yards receiving in each of his first three games with a new team. He’s scored five touchdowns — the same number of touchdowns opponents have scored against the Patriots.

4. T.J. Houshmandzadeh. For some unknown reason, over the last few years, the Patriots’ pass defense has done very well against opposing No. 1 receivers but they’ve allowed some No. 2 receivers to have career-best days. Houshmandzadeh, Cincy’s No. 2, had four catches for a team-high 95 yards the last time these two teams met. In addition, look for Houshmandzadeh when the Bengals are in third and long — according to the Pro Football Prospectus, last year, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer threw to Houshmandzadeh more often than he threw to Johnson on third down, and with more success — Houshmandzadeh converted 21 of 47 opportunities, while Johnson was just 10 of 34.

5. Whether or not the Patriots will be able to break 50 points. After averaging 38 points through the first three games of the season — and going against the 29th-ranked defense Monday night in Cincinnati — it remains a serious possibility. The last time New England scored 50 points was on Nov. 18, 1984 against Indianapolis when the Patriots beat the Colts, 50-17. The franchise record for most points in a game is 56, notched in a 56-3 win over the Jets on Sept. 9, 1979.

STAT OF THE WEEK

12:38. The length of time that the Patriots have trailed through the first three games of the season, all of which came in the first half of Sunday’s 38-7 win over the Bills.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I don’t think that was the best play I’ve ever seen … let’s put it that way.” –Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick on the third-quarter lateral from Wes Welker to Randy Moss.

Christopher Price is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the Patriots since 2001 for Boston Metro. He’s served a contributor to ESPN.com, SI.com, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The Miami Herald. His book “The Blueprint: How the New England Patriots Beat the System to Create the Last Great NFL Superpower” will be released Oct. 16 by Thomas Dunne Books. He can be reached at [email protected].

Cold Hard Redesign

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

Have you been over to Cold Hard Football Facts today? There’s a spiffy new redesign/reorganization, and two articles on the Patriots early season assault on the NFL record books.

The truth still hurts, but otherwise, quite pleasant. I am especially transfixed by the newsticker in the top banner.

Kerry Byrne and company have one of the best pro football sites around, and the redesign makes a good first impression. We heartily recommend.

Wake and Bake

logoby Scott Benson
[email protected]

In the first twenty-three minutes of play yesterday, the Patriots:

*Took a turnover on their opponent’s first possession to a 1st and Goal, yet came away with only three points;

*Gave up a seven minute, 80 yard touchdown drive – and the lead – to a rookie quarterback seeing his first NFL action;
 
*Scored no points after being stuffed on a fourth down try near their opponent’s 20;

*Lost another score when their Super Bowl MVP quarterback fumbled inches from the opposing goal line;

*Lost two instant replay challenges, and two timeouts.

Then they woke up.

And in the end, those early cobwebs proved insignificant as the Patriots rolled to another impressive win, 38-7, over the undermanned and overmatched Buffalo Bills yesterday at Foxboro.

Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns, Randy Moss continued his remarkable start with two more scores, Laurence Maroney ran for 100 yards and the defense held the Bills to under 200 in total offense while forcing two turnovers, as New England ran their record to 3-0 for the first time since 2004.

I’m sure the Patriots were trying, but they were horribly sloppy in the first quarter and a half, which resulted in Buffalo having a surprising early lead despite losing starting quarterback JP Losman on their first possession to a questionable low hit by nose tackle Vince Wilfork.

It shouldn’t have been surprising – after two emotionally taxing weeks, the Patriots were facing a winless opponent that had suffered nothing but indignity and grievous injury since the season’s opening kickoff.

Those injuries only continued for Buffalo when Losman went down after Wilfork dove at his knees on a short completion on the first play of the game. Wilfork was undoubtedly shoved towards Losman on the play, but its hard to feel good about the elbow Wilfork threw at Losman’s knees after the ball had cleared.

To Buffalo’s credit, they overcame the loss to quickly take the lead behind a rookie quarterback who was taking his first NFL snaps. 

To New England’s credit, their reeling defense quickly gathered themselves to shut down Trent Edwards – who hit his first four passes as a pro to drive the Bills the length of the field and into the New England end zone – giving Brady and company the chance to take over the game, then put it out of reach.

It was Wes Welker who snapped the Pats out of it.

After the Brady fumble at the Buffalo goal line, the slot receiver (who also had 6 catches for 69 yards, including a 26 yard catch and run that ended with an ill advised lateral to Moss) had consecutive darting punt returns of 29 and 26 yards to twice set the Patriots offense up with short fields, which led to two New England touchdowns and a 17-7 halftime lead.

The Pats rumbled on in the second half, scoring three times while not allowing the Buffalo offense to cross midfield.

Brady finished with a remarkable 23/29/311 line, as he scales new statistical heights in his eighth year. Moss became the first NFL player in history to have 100 yards receiving in each of his first three games with a new team.

Who keeps track of things like that? Do they know if the Pats set a team record for most consecutive weeks scoring 38 points?

Anyway, after Ben Watson got the first Pats score (after deftly finding a soft spot in Buffalo coverage at the goal line), Moss extended New England’s lead to two touchdowns when he muscled his way open on a short slant pattern in front of Jabari Greer, who was left alone to defend the indefensible. He had no chance when Brady threaded the needle with the throw.

Later, he streaked past Greer to gather in a perfectly thrown 45 yarder from the Pats qb for the score that sent most New England veterans – including Brady – to the bench for the rest of the afternoon.

As I said last week, there are no words to describe Moss’s impact on Brady and the Patriots offense. He already has five touchdowns, and again, his very presence makes the game look easy for his teammates. Brady completed passes to eight different receivers, including Jabar Gaffney (a third quarter TD), Donte Stallworth (a 28 yarder for a first down), Kyle Brady (a 20 yard over the head grab to the Buffalo 2) and Dave Thomas (an early third down conversion).

The Patriots offensive line kept Brady clean (just one sack) against a line it has often struggled with, while guards Russ Hochstein and Logan Mankins and center Dan Koppen opened holes for Maroney, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans, who combined for 177 yards rushing.

The tandem of Maroney and Morris accounted for 149 of those, as Maroney slithered for nearly 5.5 yards a carry while counterpoint Morris pounded away for a respectable 3.8 clip and a short touchdown.

Buffalo linebacker Paul Posluszny was badly hurt (forearm) in the first half while trying to slow down that Patriots running game. Losman hung in after Wilfork’s low hit, but just long enough to be stripped two plays later by a blitzing Ellis Hobbs, who hacked the ball away from an unaware Losman. Soon after, he was limping to the Bills locker room, and Edwards was driving Buffalo to a score.

Just one, as the Patriots veteran defense adjusted to the rookie and kept him miles away from replicating his maiden voyage. Given their inexperienced and undermanned competition, though, there was nothing overtly impressive about the Patriots defense yesterday. 

Yet, maybe that’s impressive in and of itself. After two weeks that will go down as two of the most emotionally wringing in team history, the Patriots on Sunday faced an less threatening opponent, one they should beat easily. In other words, the protypical trap game. One they could just as easily lose, if a hangover persisted and they chose to sleep it off.

They might have been tempted to pull the covers over their heads for a few minutes yesterday, but in the end, the Patriots dragged themselves out of bed, and went to work.

A lesser team may not have woken up at all. 

The Sunday Links – September 23, 2007

logo923by Scott Benson
[email protected]

What I’m reading this morning while anxiously awaiting Charlie Casserly’s latest explosive revelation (how’s this one – Texans, Freed From Former GM’s Incompetence, Start 2-0):

In the Globe, Mike Reiss has his weekly Football Notes, topped by good news on former Pats lineman Joe Andruzzi’s battle with cancer. The unsung Andruzzi is back in New England and in remission from the disease he’s been fighting for the last four months. Best wishes as always from all Pats fans to Joe and his family.

Chris Gasper takes us to the field, where the Pats will face the 0-2 Bills this afternoon in Foxboro, after two highly charged games that may leave them fighting complacency today. Gasper and Reiss share the daily notebook, where Randall Gay is enjoying newfound health and Brandon Meriweather is getting ready to fill in for another chronically-injured Patriot, Eugune Wilson, who may miss today’s game with an ankle problem.

In his weekly scouting report, Jim McBride likes the Pats in every matchup today.

At the Herald, John Tomase considers whether the Patriots can go 16-0. Karen Gurgeian has the Pats D trying to one-up each other in her daily notes. Tomase has five things to look for today, including the let-down factor that would seem to be the first threat to that 16-0 record.

Down at the ProJo, Shalise Manza Young has a feel good piece on Jarvis Green, who is filling in for Marquise Hill while filling in for Richard Seymour. In her game analysis, SMY likes the Pats across the board this afternoon. Bob McGarry has a look at the rest of the NFL games this weekend.

Jim Donaldson says Scott Pioli gets an A+ for his off-season roster building, which seems more like a shot at Theo Epstein than anything else. Hey Jim, if you’d graded Epstein after just two weeks of his season, wouldn’t he have gotten an A+ too? Good timing on the shots at Theo, given his team clinched a playoff berth last night.

Manza Young finishes up with an up close with Pats lineman Ryan O’Callaghan. I loved the second year man’s description of the wide variety of music he has in his car, which ranges from Garth Brooks to Alan Jackson. A Renaissance man.

In the Hartford Courant, David Heuschkel reminds us that lately, the Bills have been a tough match for the Pats. Good point.

I’ll be back after the game with a wrap-up of the day’s action. In the meantime, you can check Reiss’s Pieces and The Point After for the latest updates, and if the Sunday Links has only whet your appetite for more reading this morning, then by all means head over to patriotslinks.com for more.

College Scout – September 22, 2007

logo 922by Greg Doyle
[email protected]

Week four kicks off this afternoon with league games becoming more prevalent, as teams begin to reveal themselves as contenders or pretenders. This week, we’ll try to find some good games to spotlight but also focus on teams we haven’t looked at yet. Let’s take a look:

Northwestern at Ohio State (3:30 PM ESPN): We haven’t looked at either of these teams. This will be the Big-10 opener for both. Ohio State comes in 3-0 and is ranked 8th in the country. Northwestern was off to a nice 2-0 start before last week’s embarassing loss to Duke. Ohio State only starts two seniors so we’ll be looking at some younger players.

Northwestern T Dylan Thiry (#74): Thiry is a tall tackle at 6’8″ who mans the left side for the Wildcats. He has been a three year starter over there. He clearly needs to get stronger, but has the size and could be a late round project for some team. Reportedly has a good work ethic, so that could draw some interest from the Patriots.

Northwestern LB Adam Kadela (#43): Nothwestern’s leading tackler last year, he plays inside and has good size to possibly play in the NFL. Has been a smart player and a leader, but not really that athletic and doesn’t look as big as his listed size. Not good in coverage, but solid against the run.

Northwestern S Reggie McPherson (#27): Has started for most of his four years at Northwestern at the free safety spot. Has been productive and shows a good ability to get to the ball in coverage. Could be a late round pick with a big year.

Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston (#50): One of the best defensive ends in college football, he is a pure pass rusher. Was 2nd Team All Big-10 last year and a chance to be an All-American this season. Speed and good size. Played linebacker in high school, so possibly could convert there and be a Mike Vrabel/Willie McGinest type for the Patriots. Might come out, but only a junior.

Ohio State LB James Laurinaitis (#33): In the long line of excellent Ohio State linebackers, Laurinaitis may be the best. He was a first team All-American and the Nagurski Award winner as the nation’s best linebacker as a Sophomore! Only a junior this year. For those of you longing for the Patriots to find a young inside linebacker, here is your guy. He can do it all, tackle, blitz and get out in coverage (5 INTs last year). Just a complete player. Only a junior, but could be a top 10 pick if he comes out next draft.

Purdue at Minnesota (9:00 PM ESPN2): Another Big-10 matchup between the so far impressive Purdue Boilermakers and the slow starting Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Purdue WR Dorien Bryant (#9): One of the better prospects in the country at reciever, he reportedly runs a 4.24/40. Reminds me of Deion Branch, with his speed and slight size, and can play in the slot.

Purdue TE Dustin Keller (#28): A great pass-catching tight end who could be an h-back type in the NFL. Not great size and not much of a blocker, but can get downfield and catch. 69 career catches coming into this season.
 
Purdue LB Stanford Keglar (#59): An effective linebacker with excellent size who can get back into coverage. Size alone gives him a chance with the Patriots.

Purdue DE Cliff Avril (#32): A great sized defensive end with the tools to switch to outside linebacker. This would seem the prototypical type college defensive end who could make the switch to linebacker in a 3-4. I’ll predict the Patriots are very interested in this pass rusher and athlete.

Minnesota RB Amir Pinnix (#29): Good size and strength. Not the fastest guy in the world. Backed up Laurence Maroney and ran for over 1,300 yards as a starter last year. Not as good as Maroney, but can probably play in the NFL.

Others to Watch: Kentucky has warmed Kige Ramsey’s heart by getting off to an impressive 3-0 start. Behind the success is extremely talented QB Andre Woodson (#3) who may be the most talented quarterback in the country and has potential to be a very high draft pick. He has the arm, size and mobility that could make him a star in the NFL. Check him out as Kentucky visits Arkansas at 6:00 PM on ESPN2. Washington State QB Alex Brink is worth watching. Not blessed with a tremendous arm, this smart, accurate quarterback has a tall task ahead of him taking on #1 USC at 8:00 PM on ABC. A good showing here could really raise his stock. Arizona WR Anthony Johnson (#9) will join the rest of the Wildcats in taking on California on Versus at 6:00 PM. Johnson is a possession receiver with good size who could fit with the Patriots due to his sure hands should they lose some of their receivers next offseason.

Patriots Buffet Table – Sept 23rd Patriots vs. Bills

Patriots Buffet Table – Sept 23rd Patriots vs. Bills
Patriots Daily Kitchen Staff

This week the Patriots are taking on the Bills. They’re common opponents playing twice a year, and you think you know what to expect by now. In the NFL sometimes the unexpected happens. On the Buffet Table there are no Buffalo Wings this week. We took a hint from the Pats and used a little misdirection. That misdirection will be bad for Losman and the Bills, but it is good for you as we’re serving up another Buffalo specialty, Beef on Weck.

A roast beef sandwich served on a special type of Kaiser roll topped with pretzel salt and caraway seeds. This roll (a Kummelweck), rare roast beef, horseradish and the cooking liquid from the beef make up this Buffalo standard. Easy one this week folks, no not beating the Bills, making this dish.

Head to the grocery store and pick up:
Kaiser rolls
Rare roast beef from the deli, 1/3 pound per sandwich you want to make
Horseradish
Caraway seeds
Kosher salt
Beef stock (low sodium), 1 can, more if you’ll be making a lot of sandwiches
2 eggs
dill pickles

Kummelwecks are only sold in the Buffalo area. The exact name is one of contention, like a submarine/spukie/hero different people use different names for it. But at the Buffet Table it is “Kummelweck”, “Kummel” is German for “caraway seed” and “weck” is German for “roll”. “Kimmel” is Bill Simmons’ friend Jimmy, and “Wick” is a piece of string in a candle. If you haven’t used kosher salt before, it’s a flaked salt instead of granulated. It dissolves more slowly than table salt, so you can use less of it and get the same flavor. Keep the table salt on the table where it belongs and out of your cook pot.

We’ll be making our own Kummelweck. Beat those eggs in a bowl with two tablespoons of water. Brush the egg onto the tops of your Kaiser rolls, then sprinkle them with the kosher salt and caraway seeds. Put the roll tops into an oven at 350 degrees and watch them closely, once the egg is dried the seeds and salt won’t fall off. This will only take a few minutes but each oven will be different. Just don’t turn your back on them or they may burn.

If you want to buy a roast and slow cook it that would be great. Make like Peyton and cut that meat. We’re just going to use deli roast beef. Add your beef stock to a pot and bring it to a boil, back the heat down to a simmer and add your deli roast beef. You don’t want to cook the roast beef, just heat it through.

Lay out the bottom halves of your rolls. Pile on the roast beef high. Add horseradish to taste. Dip the roll tops into your beef stock to complete the sandwich. Put a couple of pickle halves on your plate and you have a Beef on Weck.

For the tailgaters:
Make the rolls up to a day before and put them back into the bag, you can handle everything else while tailgating.

Time for a Drink!

With this sandwich and at this time of the year, we’re going with Octoberfest. The maltiness of the beer will stand up to the beef, and the roast qualities in both the malt and beef will tie in together. Octoberfest isn’t a hoppy beer, so there won’t be a contrast between hops and the saltiness and caraway of the Weck. However there are enough hops to handle the fat in the roast beef.

You may see these beers labeled as Octoberfest (Oktoberfest), Maerzen (Marzen) or Festbier. Marzen is the German word for March and refers to the time the beers were brewed. Oktober is the German word for October and refers to the time you’d drink the last of your Marzen. Festbier, and the ‘fest’ in octoberfest simply refers to the festival where you drink away the last of the stock. That festival started in 1810 to celebrate a royal wedding, and we’re still celebrating it almost 200 years later.

There are a number of small breweries in the Buffalo area, but only the Flying Bison brewing company distributes to New England. Unfortunately I cannot recommend their beers, I haven’t found them to be very good. We’ll be looking outside the Lake Region to the Saranac beers of the F.X. Matt Brewing company. Saranac Octoberfest is a solid, credible example of the style. It is a malty and bready beer and it’s use of Saaz hops adds a bit of spiciness. That spiciness adds an additional match with the spiciness of the horseradish. For those who haven’t tried many beers from anyone but Bud, Miller and Coors, Saranac provides a good introduction. They have made almost fifty different beer styles and most have been good. In addition they usually have a variety 12 pack on the market which changes with the season and features 12 different beers. For about $11 you’ll get to try 12 different beer styles that you may not have tried before. That’s not bad compared to the $7 or more a 6 pack can cost.

Looking to our local New England breweries you will not have any shortage of Octoberfests. Harpoon and Sam Adams have two of the most widely available, you can even get those on draft in chain restaurants. Otter Creek, Thomas Hooker, and Newport Storm all present their own takes on the style. Don’t forget your local brewpubs, most will be featuring an Octoberfest for the season. Salem Beer Works, Trinity in Providence, The Tap in Haverhill, Watch City in Waltham, Portsmouth Brewing Company in Portsmouth, NH, Willimantic and Cambridge House in CT and far too many others to mention are worth checking out. They all sell beer to go in half gallon bottles named growlers that you could pick up on the days before the game.

Further a field, Brooklyn Brewery Octoberfest, Victory Brewing Festbier, and Blue Point Octoberfest are all good American examples of the style. Coming from Germany we have Paulaner, Hofbrau, Spaten and Hacker-Pschorr all bringing to you the same beer served in those giant tents in Munich.