September 27, 2016

Chef Recommends; Piping Hot Link

logoby Patriots Daily Staff
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Believing sincerely that a watched pot never boils, our own Chef has been passing the time in the PD Kitchen (idle this week with a road game on tap) by perusing the Intertubes for choice meat on this Sunday night’s Colts-Pats matchup.

He shoots, he scores. It seems the Pro Football Hall of Fame has designated the game as its Throwback Game of the Week, and with that comes all kinds of cool archival materials from the many memorable battles fought by these two rivals over the years.

We thought you might find something of interest there. Remember to compliment the Chef and tip the waitstaff.

Addition:

Some more appetizers in the form of NFL.com video clips about Colts/Patriots

Week 9: Patriots vs. Colts Preview

Weather update: Patriots vs Colts

Belichick ready for Colts


Cassel a bona fide starter

Colts’ concerns

Generally Speaking: Bill Polian on Colts


Colts not sharp

The Old Gray Mare, She Ain’t What She Used To Be

logoby Britt Schramm
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“Statistics are no substitute for judgment” – Henry Clay, American Statesman

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts-for support rather than for illumination.” – Andrew Lang, Scottish Poet and Collector of Folk/Fairy Tales

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Mark Twain, American author (attributing original quote to Benjamin Disraeli)

If I can paraphrase badly the sentiment of the three wise men quoted above, statistics can be very misleading in the wrong hands.  To that end, here’s an interesting comparison provided by NFL.com concerning the former and current starting QB for your AFC East Co-Leaders from Foxboro after seven games under their respective belts.

Hey, those numbers look pretty friggin comparable, I’d say.  As you can see, Cassel is completing at a better percentage and for more passing yards than his predecessor; probably a result of having Moss and Welker (not a slight against the ’01 edition of Patten and Brown).  Other numbers show that Matt probably still holds onto the ball way too long based not only on the fact that the number of sacks is twice as many as Brady’s but a sometime by-product of a collapsing pocket is increased rushing attempts, which is over twice of what Brady has.

To justify all of the work to get these individual stats, I think that it is necessary to delve a little deeper into these numbers to find out how statistically alike these two So Cal QBs are.

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A Defense In Transition

logoby Bruce Allen
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If Tom Brady hadn’t gotten hurt, you might not even have noticed it so much this season.

With his injury however, more attention is being paid to the defensive side of the ball, and even then, it’s not getting a whole lot of attention.

Don’t look now, but almost the entire Patriots defense is being remade. It’s getting younger, faster and more athletic. The growing pains are there, we’ve seen them. This sort of transition is going to have its bumpy parts, but the move is being made nonetheless.

At linebacker, for years the starters seemed to play the whole game, every game. For a long time it was Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Roman Phifer and Mike Vrabel, with Willie McGinest alternating between outside linebacker and defensive end. When Phifer, Johnson and McGinest all either retired or went elsewhere, Junior Seau came on board for the last two seasons. Only Bruschi and Vrabel remain today, and they were joined last season by Adalius Thomas. During those years, the only young linebacker to see the field was Tully Banta Cain, and he was allowed to leave via free agency, being deemed not worthy enough to keep around.

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Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling

logoby Dan Snapp
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You never know what memories of a football game you’ll stash away long after the contest’s completed. The big plays typically get top billing – the bomb, the interception, the game-ending sack – but often, it’s less-likelier suspects that resonate. It’s a subtle part of the game’s beauty.

Early in the fourth quarter Sunday, after the Rams went up 16-13 on the Patriots, an old familiar feeling washed over: the Patriots are going to win this.

There was no particular rhyme or reason for it at the time. The Patriots had just consummated an abysmal third quarter by giving up an onside kick, two interceptions, the ball on downs, and ultimately the lead. Moreover, their first possession of the fourth featured two dropped passes, a sack and punt.

Didn’t matter. The feeling persisted.

And it was familiar not from last year, when a different kind of “They’re going to win this” feeling would hit, usually in the first quarter. No, this was a feeling returning from 2003 and 2004.

Despite their matching 14-2 records those two years, the Patriots were often undersold as a league power, as they rarely blew anybody out. A common win would be them holding an 8- to 11-point lead early in the fourth, and then watching the opposition use up most of remaining regulation getting one of the two scores they needed.

To beat the Patriots back then, you had to knock them out early. If they were lingering, they were going to win. That old feeling said as much.

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Five Questions

logoby Scott Benson
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Welcome back to Five Questions, everybody. Now, you remember how we play our game – answer all five questions and you win one hundred thousand dollars, plus a invitation to play in our Grand Finals later this season……in Las Vegas!

Actually, that’s something else entirely. This is just Five Questions about football.

Shouldn’t retiring coaches wait until AFTER the season to announce their intentions?

This past offseason, Mike Holmgren came right out and said it. Tony Dungy may as well have. Two of the most successful head coaches of the last fifteen years would step down at the end of the 2008 season, leaving two teams that had become perennial contenders during their tenures.

Maybe they should have kept that bit of news to themselves for a while longer.

Holmgren’s Seattle Seahawks, coming off five straight playoff appearances, are 2-5 since learning their longtime head coach would step aside at the end of the season.

Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts, Super Bowl XLI champions and a playoff team in each of Dungy’s six seasons, are 3-4, giving the two lame ducks a combined record of 5-9 for 2008.

Sure, there are all kinds of reasons why this is the case; no Matt Hasselbeck puts a damper on things in Seattle (note to self: Sigh.), and the Colts have struggled with injuries and ailments from Peyton Manning on down (Sigh.). Neither team was impenetrable to begin with. Holmgren’s always been thin at one position or another (people were giving Belichick a hard time for having no better option than Matt Cassel; how does Seneca Wallace hit you?), and there’s been a subtle attrition happening in Indy that’s not all that dissimilar to the one in New England.

Still, you have to wonder how much “yeah, sure boss (eyeroll)” there is in that combined 5-9 record. It’s human nature, at least to a degree. If your boss came in this morning and announced he or she will be leaving at the end of the month, what would be your reaction to their next dictum? Yeah, sure boss.

I think it’s better than 50/50 that Holmgren’s Last Waltz won’t be Scorsese material. I guess we’ll get a look in week fourteen. But the Colts? I have to say I’m wary. They may have played themselves out of the division with their mess on Monday night, but four losses at this point disqualifies them from nothing else. Especially if they can get a big win on national TV this week.

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Matt Cassel’s First 4th Quarter Comeback

logoby Tyler Carter
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In front of a nationally televised audience against Denver, Matt Cassel completed 75% percent of his passes (7.7 yards per attempt), three of them for touchdowns and none for interceptions.  Although his success was no doubt buoyed by a potent rushing attack (not to mention five forced turnovers), his 136.3 passer rating was 10th highest all-time by a Patriot quarterback, and he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.

Yet his best game may have been against the Rams this past Sunday.

The author is aware that Cassel threw two interceptions, and his 21-33 effort (63.6%) actually brought down his seasonal completion percentage (65.8%).  The interceptions, which were primarily responsible for his lackluster 73.7 passer rating, were rather fortuitous: the first came on a pass intended for Moss (who had single coverage) that was tipped by Fakhir Brown and hauled in by Oshiomogho Atogwe, and the second occurred after Welker fell victim to the turf monster, giving Brown an easy pick.  If you take away those two picks (and assume the passes fell incomplete), Cassel’s rating jumps to a more respectable 98.9.

You can’t simply ignore turnovers however, and on this day the Rams won that battle 4-1 (if the turnover on downs and onside kick are factored in).  Although this provided the Rams with favorable field position and momentum, the Patriot defense rallied and surrendered only a couple of field goals.  The unit had a monster day overall, allowing only 16 points despite giving up 358 yards of total offense (268 through the air) for an eye-popping 22.38 yards per point allowed (YPPA, a measure of CHFF’s Bendability Index).

This week however, the Turning Point belongs to the Cassel-led offense.  After their three 3rd quarter drives ended in turnovers (the aforementioned interceptions and turnover on downs), St. Louis led by three early in the 4th quarter.  New England was forced to punt after their next possession before they finally got in sync on a drive that resulted in a game-tying field goal.  After their final (non-kneeldown) possession began with a sack (and brought up 2nd and 18), the Patriots went back to their shotgun spread in an attempt to break the stalemate.

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In Condi We Trust

logoby Kevin Henkin
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(Editor’s Note: This morning we welcome this guest contribution from old friend Kevin Henkin, who has an idea on how the Patriots can quickly return to the top of the NFL heap. We cannot believe we didn’t think of this first. But that’s Kevin Henkin, folks. A visionary.)

While I may not be a football “expert” along the lines of Tony Kornheiser or Glenn Ordway, I know at least this much: The Patriots need to steal Condoleeza Rice away before the San Francisco 49ers get their grubby little brie-encrusted hands on her.

It’s not all that surprising that the 49ers have Condi Rice in their sights. Perhaps more than any other team in the NFL, the 49ers enjoy a proud tradition of being a great football team a long time ago. That’s why this choice is so savvy for them. Football is, after all, is a game of war and Condi Rice is battle tested in managing two wars at once! Talk about multi-tasking.

Condi also brings a lot of other qualifications to the table. For example, she has been photographed on multiple occasions holding a football during photo-ops. Anyone who brings a football along to a press conference is clearly a student of the game. (Ever see Rich Kotite carrying around a football to press conferences? I rest my case.)

Also, it is said that when Condi served as Provost at Stanford University, she played a large role in landing Dennis Green as Head Coach of the football program. Yes, folks, the same Dennis Green who subsequently elevated the team back to above-average prominence (culminating in an exciting Aloha Bowl loss!). Heady days for the Cardinal football program indeed.

There is also the fact that Ms. Rice has often spoken of her ultimate of goal of one day becoming the NFL Commissioner. Suffice it to say that, considering the robo-nazis who currently occupy the NFL front office these days, the Patriots could really use a friend in the big chair the next time a huge cheating controversy happens.

Also consider the executive experience that Condi Rice can brag about. With her firmly in charge, she wouldn’t be allowing things like having her starting quarterback’s knee being operated on over and over again by some quack hippie doctor using a dirty steak knife out in California. Rest assured that the shenanigans would be over and order would be restored in this once proud Patriots organization.

Lastly, when it comes to “the way things are done” in Foxboro, Condi would obviously fit right in, what with her long track record of denying obvious truths to the press and treating important reporters very rudely.

For the sake of summation, let us recap the Condi situation: Carries football around. Wants to be Commissioner. Hired Denny Green. Takes no mess. Soon to be unemployed. Hates reporters. Wow. Honestly, do we need to hear anymore, folks? This is a win-win for everyone involved (except maybe for incompetent surfer-boy doctors out in California). It is what it is. As they say out in Texas (where people really love football!), let’s get’r done. In Condi We Trust!

Cassel Stands Up to Rams

logoby Chris Warner
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In order for the Patriots to succeed, Matt Cassel has to excel. Well, not excel, exactly. He just has to do whatever the opposite of “mess up” is. Perform. Function. Execute. Achieve. (Okay, fine: I used a thesaurus.)

In New England’s 23-17 win over the Rams, Cassel performed quite well, hitting 21 of 33 passes for 267 yards and one game-winning touchdown. He also overcame a shaky third quarter to get his team 10 points in the fourth.

The kid stayed focused, even as his receivers let him down: both Wes Welker and Randy Moss dropped passes they tend to catch. Moss let six points through his hands on a pretty touch throw (or what would have been pretty). New England had to settle for a field goal and a 16-16 tie with 8:22 left in the game.

Cassel got the ball back about 90 seconds later and, after a St. Louis sack, completed a 23-yarder over the middle to Moss. Kevin Faulk picked up two first downs: one on a draw, the other up the middle after a Moss eight-yard quick slant. From the 15-yard line, Faulk juked toward the middle and bent his route outside, pulling in Cassel’s lofted ball past Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (what?) for the 23-16 lead with just over three minutes remaining.

If a quarterback is measured by how well he performs at the end of halves, Cassel gets bonus points for his work in the second quarter. New England took the lead on some sound clock management, special teams, and a big play to Moss (who knew?). With 29 seconds left in the half, the Rams had to punt twice due to an ineligible receiver penalty, giving the home team the ball at St. Louis’ 46. Cassel found Moss crossing for a 30-yard pickup, but couldn’t connect with him in the end zone. Still, with one second left, Stephen Gostkowski got the home squad the lead, 13-10.

The halftime score came as a surprise to viewers because St. Louis had managed to squander some serious opportunities midway through the second. The Patriots pass defense looked porous, with pores the size of donut holes. Consider this: by the time rookie Donnie Avery scored the Rams’ first TD on a 69-yarder for a 10-7 St. Louis lead with 14:14 left in the half, he had already tallied four catches for 113 yards. (Avery ended up with six receptions for 163 yards. Uh, Pats DBs? Peyton Manning likes to throw long. Just thought I’d put that out there for next week.)

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The Sunday Links

logoby Scott Benson
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In the NFL, you never know, because shit happens.

Not too long ago, today’s game with the St. Louis Rams was considered a sure win for Tom Brady and the defending AFC champs. After all, the Rams lost almost as many games as New England won in 2007, and the jury remained out on whether Scott Linehan could ever reverse the slide that first began when favored St. Louis was upended in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Um, so much for that.

Now, it’s a big game for both teams, and it will be imperative that the Patriots continue their vigorous play from last Monday night. They’ll never make the playoffs if they’re up one week and down the next, as they’ve been over the last month.

As David Puddy likes to say, though – it’s gonna’ be rough.  The Rams are streaking after firing Linehan, promoting Jim Haslett, and beating the Redskins and Cowboys in consecutive weeks. Talk about shit happening.

There is one thing you can count on in this rapidly changing world – the Sunday Links.

In the Globe, Christopher Gasper has the former worst team in football just trying to do things right.

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College Scout, 10/25/08

logoby Greg Doyle
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Look around college football today and you’ll see good game after good game. The tilt between Georgia and LSU should be great, as well as the big Texas-Oklahoma State matchup between two undefeated teams. Tonight, there will be the huge Penn State at Ohio State game in which the Nittany Lions will get a chance to prove they are the real deal.

Texas Tech at Kansas (Noon ESPN)

Texas Tech is undefeated and likes to throw it all over the yard. Kansas is also highly regarded and similarly has a very high powered offense. This could be fun and high scoring.

Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell (#6)

A very productive QB with good size and great stats. Harrell is a typical Texas Tech QB putting up great numbers in a spread offense that is completely unconventional to any offense in the NFL. Harrell is accurate enough, but like earlier Texas Tech Qb’s BJ Symons and Kliff Kingsbury, does not possess the greatest arm in the world. Never taking snaps from under center and the nature of the offense also present a problem for his NFL prospects. He has some ability, including throwing on the run, so he should be drafted at some point but its doubtful the Patriots would take a chance after the Kingsbury failure. Here are some highlights of Harrell.

Texas Tech S Anthony Hines (#23)

A first year starter with excellent safety size at 6’1″ 222. Hines is a solidly built guy who played significant time as a junior, but only became a full-time starter this season. Has been decent but not spectacular. Ran a 4.6 in college, so there is decent speed to go with his big frame. Should get a look given that size, but must improve his play as he gains further experience this season. Needs to be a good special team player to play in the NFL.

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Rams at Pats PD Buffet Table

logoby Patriots Daily Kitchen Staff
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The Dynasty starts tonight! Oh Ricky Proehl, you raconteur you, such a quick wit. It’s appropriate that this game is being played so close to Halloween. Seven years later St. Louis still hasn’t recovered from the trick that replaced their treat.

This Rams team is horrible, they’ve been the  worst team in the league over the past two years. OK, they’ve got some competition with Detroit and Cincinnati for that title, but still seeing the Rams on the schedule this week is a nice Halloween treat for Pats fans.

Seriously, between San Diego and Denver the past couple of weeks, and looking ahead and seeing Indy and the Bills in the next two. This is the kind of break my nerves need.

The lead up to the game should even be good. I’m sure the 2001 Super Bowl will be replayed in the media all week. Despite the fact that there are hardly any key figures from that Rams team still around. Isaac Bruce, Mike Martz, Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and others have all moved on or retired.

If you miss those old Rams, and miss the old Patriots that beat up the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ then just watch the NFL network leading up to the game. I’m sure Marshall will be on there running his mouth about the Patriots. See it’s not so bad, at least 7 years later our team still won, and the Rams are still bitter about it.

What other changes have hit St. Louis? Read on and find out. First, we need some food.

Patriots Daily Buffet Table Lamb Chops (Serves 6)

3 pounds Lamb rib chops
4 tablespoons Mild Curry Paste
1 bottle Belgian Pale Ale or Strong Pale Ale

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Building Blocks

logoby Britt Schramm
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It was certainly bad news to lose Rodney Harrison late in the game last week.  His play was a key component of two New England Super Bowl teams after he came over from the Bolts and inherited the Pats’ defensive backfield when Brady’s pal Lawyer was shown the door back in ’03.  But with this year going the way it is, maybe Harrison’s injury will turn out being the best thing that could have happened to the Patriots defense.

Now, before you start hitting the comment button to begin questioning my heritage and that of my family, please step away from the keyboard and hear (or read) me out.

This isn’t the same rip job that I gave the now oft-injured LMo last week.  As I stated above, Harrison was vital to the success of the Patriots.  But ever since his season-ending injury three games into the 2005 season, he hasn’t been the same player and the stats are once again on my side.

In 2003 and 2004, Harrison averaged 16 games played, 132 total tackles (93 solo), 3 sacks, 7 passes defensed, 2.5 INTs and 2 forced fumbles.  These stats alone prove that the washed up label Harrison had coming from San Diego was erroneous to say the least.  Unfortunately, those numbers wouldn’t last after tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL knee ligaments at the Ketchup Stand. 

In 2006 and 2007, Harrison averaged 11 games played, 58 tackles (44 solo), 1.5 sacks, 4.5 passes defensed, 1 pick and 1 forced fumble.  Granted, the general rule of thumb when concerning knee reconstruction is that the recovery time takes at least one year after the surgery before a player has adjusted back to real game speed.  But even after accounting for that, Harrison was on a slippery slope going down.

And I know that I’m not the only one telling secrets out of class.  Moans of “Rodney’s lost more than a step – I thought that Belichick was more about ability rather than loyalty” and “With Harrison being used as a friggin’ extra LB, we’re getting smoked downfield like an audience at the Cheech and Chong Reunion Tour” were starting after the whole SoCal debacle two weeks ago. The time has come for an on-field, regular season evaluation of the SS position in particular and the defensive backfield as a whole.

Again, let me emphasize that I would’ve rather have Harrison end his career by playing out the rest of this season than suffer an injury in an already clinched victory.  But someday, the Pats will have to figure out who’s gonna stay and who will be on their way out the door with respects to their starting defensive backfield.  With Rodney still in the mix, this type of evaluation may never happen.  The way this season has been going, the time might as well be now.

Speaking of now, here’s this week’s matchup.

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