August 22, 2014

Jets/Dolphins Notes, and Favre-Cam This Weekend

Yes, FOX is trotting out Farve-Cam this weekend.The network is isolating one camera that will be on Brett Favre for the entire broadcast on Sunday.

There are three games that will be of interest this weekend, two of which feature Patriots AFC rivals and could determine playoff berths and/or seeding. The 6-0 Denver Broncos travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens at 1:00pm, this should be another good test for the Broncos. But the biggest game to Patriots fans is the AFC East matchup of the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. Both teams have done plenty of talking this week. The Dolphins sit at 2-4, but are 2-0 in the AFC East. A victory over the Jets would mean a season sweep for the Dolphins, and a 3-0 division record. The Jets sit at 4-3, but 1-2 in the division. A win for them would tie the Patriots in the win column, and even their division record. Since the Patriots have two games remaining with the Dolphins, I’m thinking we root for Miami, since the Patriots can still control their AFC East destiny because they have both games still remaining against the Dolphins.

Here are some thoughts from Phil Simms on Dolphins/Jets:

Phil Simms on Dolphins/Jets (1:00pm, CBS)

Jets_Dolphins(On Miami vs. N.Y. Jets): The thing about the Jets and the Dolphins, there’s always been a rivalry but it’s really stepping up.  Rex Ryan is making sure to step it up at a faster pace than these rivalries are used to. It makes for good preparation during the week.  It’s getting close to desperation game time for the Miami Dolphins.  One, because of the number of losses, if they did lose; and two, because it’s a division game.  This time of year it’s getting to that stage of the season where if you lose, it’s hard to make it back up with the season almost half over.

(On Miami’s Chad Henne): The big thing with Chad Henne is that many people don’t even recognize his name.  I have been impressed with him. He’s played very well.  He’s very talented, and he absolutely has a chance to be in the same class as Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco.  But you can’t tell anybody that because he’s just not a big enough name.  He wasn’t ballyhooed on draft day.  He probably deserved to be a first round draft pick, but was not.

(On Jets’ Rookie Shonn Greene): I liked Shonn Greene a lot coming out of college, and I thought that when the Jets moved up in the draft to get him it was a great move on their part.  I think there were quite a few NFL teams that were sitting back and shaking their heads because they were mad they didn’t make the move to go up and get Shonn Greene.

(On Brett Favre and Minnesota at Green Bay): I think Brett Favre will get a great reception in Green Bay.  But between the players and the coaches of the organization, there’s extra.  I don’t want to say motivation, but there comes a time when you just say okay we’ve had enough. And that’s why I think Green Bay will find a way to win the game.

In this week’s FOX  NFL Sunday show, Bradshaw, an outspoken critic on the way Favre handled the off-season and his ultimately signing with the Vikings, sits down with the legendary quarterback to discuss his mindset and emotions upon his returning to Lambeau Field in a rival’s uniform. Also, Long finds out what the Packers can do to prevent Vikings DE Jared Allen from causing as much damage as he did in their earlier matchup.

The Favre-return-to-Green-Bay is sure to be the most overblown sports story of decade. These promos from FOX should give you some idea of what to expect Sunday.

FAVRE-CAM LETS FANS FOLLOW EVERY MOVE NO. 4 MAKES ON FOXSPORTS.COM & NFL.COM — With all the hype surrounding Brett Favre’s return to the place he called home for so many years, it’s fair to assume fans attending the game will have their eyes glued on him from the moment he runs out of the visitor’s locker room and takes the field for warm ups to the last second of this highly anticipated ‘homecoming.’ FOX Sports gives fans watching at home the same opportunity. A camera stationed high on the 50-yard line will be isolated on Favre from the second he takes the field against his former team until the moment he runs back into the locker room. A constant video stream of this select angle is available to fans by logging on FOXSports.com and NFL.com.

HALL OF FAME QB AIKMAN PREVIEWS EPIC SHOWDOWN IN GREEN BAY — In the most anticipated matchup on any network this season, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre leads Minnesota into his former home, Lambeau Field, as the Vikings take on quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.  Hall of Fame quarterback and NFL on FOX lead analyst Troy Aikman shared his thoughts below.  Aikman, along with play-by-play broadcaster Thom Brennaman and sideline reporter Pam Oliver call all the action LIVE this Sunday, Nov. 1 (1:15 PM PT/ 4:15 PM ET LIVE) on FOX.

AIKMAN ON FAVRE’S PERFORMANCE THIS SEASON, AT THE AGE OF 40 — “The thing that is most impressive is not that he’s played at such a high level, it’s that he’s been able to come back week after week and continue to play. We tend to take it for granted with him now because he hasn’t missed a game. We have to remind ourselves that he’s 40 years old!  When I retired at age 34, it was hard to come back after a physical game during my last season and be prepared the following week to play physically. You’re just so sore and it started taking longer and longer to recover.  Now he’s six years older than what I was and yet he’s still coming back and is able to play and fight through a lot of things. To me, that’s the most impressive part.”

AIKMAN ON MINNESOTA SUSTAINING THEIR SUCCESS THUS FAR — “They have so many great pieces in place. The important thing for them is staying healthy. Minnesota went Pittsburgh and could’ve won.  They went toe-to-toe with them and beat a good Baltimore team. They’ve played some good teams and have found ways to win.”

AIKMAN ON AARON RODGERS FILLING FAVRE’S SHOES IN GREEN BAY — “The most comparable situation to what Aaron is going through would be Steve Young’s start in San Francisco. He was replacing Joe Montana yet Joe was still playing. That’s the hard part. It was going to be hard for anybody if Brett had just retired and you’re going to be compared to him. But then to be compared to him while the guy is still playing and playing at a high level, I can’t even imagine what that would be like. I’ve been very impressed with how Rodgers has handled it.  I’ve been impressed both publicly as well as privately. I have the opportunity to visit with these guys privately and I will tell you that he’s been as classy in my conversations with him as he has been publicly.  I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for that entire organization or Aaron.  I think Aaron has handled it unbelievably well.  Fortunately for him, he’s played well.”

AIKMAN ON FAVRE SETTING FOOT IN LAMBEAU AS A VISITOR – “The first time these two teams played he talked about how nervous he was. I’m sure that experience was very emotional but different because of where that game was played. This will bring about a different set of emotions. On the other side, I think there will be a level of comfort for him because it is a place he is so familiar with. Granted he’ll be playing against his former team but he’s done that. The strange thing will be that he’s going to be dressing in the visitors’ locker room. My guess is that, he’ll without even thinking about it, walk into the Packers’ locker room because that’s what he did for all of those years. It’ll be different for him viewing the game from a different sideline than he stood on for all of those years. I think it will be a much more emotional experience for him than anything he experienced on Monday night in Minneapolis.”

College Scout – October 31, 2009

Our Halloween version of College Scout features some verrrrry scary teams in UNLV (eeeek!) and Washington State (Ahhhhhhh!) Perhaps fans of those teams will be justified in wearing masks today, but given their recent history its probably not that out of the ordinary. Trick or treat, here comes one day and one night game for you to scout:

UNLV at TCU

(4:00 PM EST Versus): TCU comes in undefeated and ranked as high in the country as 6. They understandably have their eyes set on a BCS berth and looking at their schedule, there does not appear to many chances they’ll lose a game this year. They’re not just a product of a weak conference either, there is plenty of NFL-caliber talent on the roster. UNLV comes in struggling at 3-5, though they lost some close ones. They’ll be looking to put a hole in TCU’s grand plans after being blown out by 30 by them last year.

UNLV WR Ryan Wolfe
ryan-wolfe(#88): Wolfe is a solidly built, strong 6’2″ 210 lb. receiver who plays inside and is somewhat like a poor man’s Michael Crabtree. Wolfe is already UNLV’s all-time leading receiver. Last year he topped 1,040 yards and this year he already has over 650 just 8 games thru the season. Wolfe appears to be a perfect inside slot receiver who can settle into openings into zones and is not afraid to take a hit while utilizing his excellent hands. A move-the-chains type receiver who does not get deep down field but is tough and physical and can take a pounding inside. Also runs great routes. Played linebacker in high school, showing his toughness. Smart player who already graduated and is currently pursuing his Master’s. Would fit with Patriots due to their utilization of this type of inside slot receiver. Will need to play special teams at least early in his career.

UNLV LB Jason Beauchamp
(#33): Beauchamp is as good an athlete as a linebacker as you will find in college football today. A fast but well-built hitter, Beauchamp’s thunderous hits cause disruption repeatedly for opponents when he is on his game. Last year, Beauchamp rang up 127 tackles including 4 for losses and 2 sacks. Already has 5.5 sacks this year despite being slowed a bit with nagging injuries early in the year. Does show some blitz potential, but his real value could be as a coverage linebacker given his excellent athletic ability, which includes natural talent to get out and cover backs and tight ends effectively.

TCU RB Joseph Turner
(#24): Nice sized back from a program that has produced some good running backs. Checks in at 6’1″ 225 lbs. Has platooned a lot during career and never put up dominant numbers, but there is talent there. Has nearly 1,800 career rushing yards as of this writing. Good short yardage back who’ll fight for the tough yard or endzone. Has 8 touchdowns alone this year and had 11 last year. Has shown little pass catching ability so far in his career and TCU runs a pretty basic offense. He’ll need to show he can adapt to an NFL offense and that might keep him off the field from regular duty early in his career. A late-round back with good size and average speed and power.

TCU OT Marshall Newhouse
(#70): A big left tackle who has started since his freshman year and consistently improved. Checks in at 317 lbs. At TCU, his pass blocking is not going to become that refined, so he’ll need to work on that but the natural NFL talent is there.May be more suited to the right side. A mid to late round pick right now.

TCU DE Jerry Hughes
(#98): Hughes is one of the best defensive players in college football currently. He was a running back in high school who was not highly recruited. A pass rushing specialist and a general, all-around pain in the you know what for offenses, Hughes led the nation in sacks last year with 15. He relies on both power and speed to do it. Along with his 15 sacks, he forced an amazing 6 fumbles last year and picked off 2 passes. This year he is doing much of the same, with 9 sacks thru 7 games. It is just apparent college players can not block him. This is an ideal pick for the Patriots as he reportedly runs as low as 4.6/40, checks in at 257 lbs. and has the athletic ability to convert to outside linebacker. He even occasionally does some coverage responsibilities now. But getting to the QB and strip sacks are his specialty. As one opposing coach said “When he’s allowed to live in pass rushing mode, you’re better off drinking cyanide.”

Notre Dame vs. Washington State (San Antonio)

(7:30 PM EST NBC): This game is being played in the Alamo Bowl and matches up the 5-2 Irish versus the seriously struggling 1-6 Cougars. Its unlikely this will be much of a game, though Clausen should build on his already impressive numbers.The best you can say about Washington State is they aren’t getting blown out quite as badly in games as they did last year. I guess that is progress. These teams have only met once before, in 2003 when Notre Dame won 29-26 in South Bend in overtime.

Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen
(#7): Clausen is the first Junior we’ve looked at this year. The quarterback for the Fighting Irish, Clausen came to college football as one of the most hyped high school players in recent memory. And Freshman year, he just wasn’t ready. Looking skinny and frail and with his arm not fully developed strength-wise, he had a poor freshman campaign and was repeatedly pulled or making mental mistakes. As a Sophomore, Clausen made remarkable strides. He finally looked bigger and stronger and the arm strength became better. He made better decisions, albeit with an occasional force still or dumb attempt to do too much. This year Clausen’s progress continues and he is the real deal. He has risen to the among the top quarterbacks in college football and a very good NFL prospect. More than any other QB in college football, he looks the most NFL ready right now, despite being only a Junior. He makes some phenomenal throws and is essentially running an NFL offense. It says here, however, he’d be better off staying for his last year. He does still make an occasional mental mistake, but there is no reason to think his progress wouldn’t continue into his senior year. Even with that, he’s only thrown 2 INTs thru 7 games this year. The Irish have rebounded to 5-2 from a 3-9 campaign last year. Another year and they may become a Top 10 team again behind the Clausen. They’re young. Another year and Clausen would have the opportunity to receive NFL coaching before actually in the NFL and a chance to work with a set of some of the best wide receivers ever put together on one college team, NFL prospects and underclassmen all. If he waits a year, Clausen could go from a top 15 pick to the top pick overall. And possibly finally have the great college season, team-wise, I’m sure he wants to have.

Notre Dame S Kyle McCarthy
(#28): A ball-hawking free safety with 5 interceptions playing centerfield for the Irish. He is active in the run game as well, racking up 110 tackles to lead UND last year. McCarthy plays hard, has decent size and can certainly play in the NFL. Has always been a top-notch special teams player as well. Solid all-around player who is not a great athlete, but a good one and is smart and a leader on defense. He’ll be a mid to late round pick by some team and probably a strong special teams presence. Kyle currently has a younger brother, Dan, on the Irish who is also a safety and receives some playing time.

Washington State C Kenny Alfred
(#69): A solid, 300 lb. anchor in the middle of the line for the Cougars and a player who’ll receive some All Pac-10 consideration. Was on the 3rd team for that award last year. Came out of high school pretty highly recruited and has started pretty regularly since freshman year. He is highly experienced in a high level conference, which is something the Patriots like to see. Smart and calls a lot of the signals on the WSU line. May be slightly undersized. Possible late-round pick who’ll certainly be in some NFL camp next year.

Washington State LB Andy Mattingly
(#45): A good-sized linebacker at 6’4″ 255 lbs. who was very experienced but had only started 10 games thru his first 3 years. Is now regularly starting this year and playing pretty well. Has 33 tackles, including 2.5 for losses and an interception. Big guy who is fairly fast, but a little bit sluggish in space. More of a run-plugger. Could get lost on a terrible team here, but there is some talent and worth looking into. Probably more of undrafted free agent, unless he works out very well before the draft. But there is size, talent and production that could translate to the NFL. Showed some pass rush ability with 8 sacks as a Sophomore, though that was a different scheme than he plays now. Needs to show some special teams ability to make a team or practice squad.

Patriots All Access – Bye Week Edition

The Patriots may be off this week, but Patriots All Access isn’t.

The show airs Friday, Oct. 30 (tonight!)  at 7 p.m. on WBZ-TV in Boston, and is available immediately afterward on Patriots.com

  • Steve Burton goes one-on-one with QB Tom Brady, the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October
  • Dan Roche recaps a successful trip to London for the Patriots with sights, sounds and behind the scenes footage
  • Coach Belichick reviews the first half of the season with Scott Zolak; then breaks down the Patriots’ defensive performance against Tampa Bay on The Belestrator
  • A conversation between two quarterbacks: Tom Brady and Scott Zolak talk football
  • All Access reveals No. 9 on the list of Top 10 Moments in Franchise History, as voted by the fans in honor of the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary

Here is a little more on the Top 10 Moments list:

Patriots Reveal Top 10 Moments in Patriots History as Selected by Fans

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Every Patriots fan has his or her favorite Patriots moment, and in celebration of their 50th season, the Patriots gave fans the opportunity to discuss, debate and vote on the Top 10 Moments in franchise history. The results of the fan vote will be revealed weekly through the end of the season on Patriots All Access on Fridays at 7 p.m. on WBZ-TV and immediately following on Patriots.com.

While there have been many memorable moments in the Patriots’ first half century of play, a nomination committee took on the difficult task of narrowing them down to a collection of 50 snapshots of Patriots history. Fans had the final say, creating their own “Top 10 Moments” list on Patriots.com by sorting and ranking their favorite Patriots moments from the larger list.

Last week, the Number 10 moment in Patriots history, as voted by the fans, was announced. Fans selected the famous “Squish the Fish” game against the Miami Dolphins in the 1985 AFC Championship, a win that capped off the Patriots’ improbable run to Super Bowl XX and broke the Patriots’ 18-game losing streak in the Orange Bowl. The decisive win sent the Patriots organization to its first Super Bowl, and left the lasting image of Head Coach Raymond Berry being carried off the field on the shoulders of his players.

“That game was our destiny,” NFL and Patriots Hall of Famer Andre Tippett told Patriots All Access. “That was supposed to happen. It was a game that we were not going to lose.”

During the offseason and throughout the 2009 regular season, Patriots fans have also been able to join the debate and cast their votes in a series of 20 “Top 10 All-Time” lists on Patriots.com. As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, the lists have chronicled all aspects of Patriots history. Fans can still vote for the remaining Top 10 lists at top10.patriots.com.

This Friday, October 30, Patriots All Access will reveal No. 9 on the countdown of Top 10 Moments in Franchise History.

Worry Wart – Bye Week

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

The Patriots enter their weekend of rest with a 5-2 record and the knowledge that, no matter what the outcome of Sunday’s Dolphins-Jets tilt, they will maintain first place in the AFC East.

After two wins featuring all the competition of pumpkins taking on the ground, New England looks as strong as they have all year. That, of course, means little to the Worry Wart, especially with so many formidable opponents yet to play.

Some other frets from Foxboro…

l_maroneyBack To The Running Back: Will Laurence Maroney continue his upward trajectory? He looked like an Arctic hare in the snow vs. Tennessee (watch this clip and note the similarity in running styles). But he seemed a little less sure of his cuts against Tampa on the Wembley pitch.

I’m glad I’m bringing up this issue, because no one ever seems to discuss it. And by “no one,” I mean “everybody.”

Pick Up The Receiver: When you begin with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, you’re probably going downhill from there. Someone has to take the third receiver spot. Brandon Tate has yet to catch an NFL pass. Here’s hoping the rookie takes over punt return duties (it’s nerve-wracking having Welker back there). Fellow rookie Julian Edelman must heal from his arm injury, which could take a few more weeks. Meanwhile, Sam Aiken scored the first touchdown of his seven-year career Sunday. In terms of his experience on offense, that says all we need to know.

Oh, Line: Despite the recent offensive production, it’s hard to say that the big men up front have played up to standard. Holding calls, false starts and (going back to the Denver game) an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Logan Mankins that made a bike jump into a lake seem thoughtful. They’ll need to get it together against better clubs.

The Bomb Applies The Balm: With both rapture and relief, we’ve watched some big plays from Tom Brady recently. Let’s see if the QB can continue with the long ball against teams with more overall talent and more overall give-a-damn than previous opponents.

Over Bill, Over Adalius: As the Patriots hit the dusty trail of the final nine games, it might help to figure out what’s happening with Coach Bill Belichick sitting linebacker Adalius Thomas. The do-everything defender, it seems, can’t. His duties have been taken over by Derrick Burgess and Gary Guyton on various downs. Can Thomas get enough time on the field to make an impact and thus earn more reps? Will it matter?

Rest up, fans. We’ve got some entertaining football on the way.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Around the League – Week 7

By Jeremy Gottlieb Patriots Daily Staff

Six of the first 11 games played this past Sunday were decided by 28 or more points. The average margin of victory for all of Week 7′s winners was 21.5. The Chargers, Bengals, Colts and Jets each won by 30+. In regard to these major point discrepancies, several noted football talking heads opined that something needed to change, that so many haves versus so many have-nots is unappealing, that the league needs to get closer to the parity of the past several years.

I call bullshit.

Honestly, what’s happening in the NFL right now is awesome. The best teams are the best and the worst teams are the worst. There is very little middle ground. And what that means is that we’re much more likely to see 14-2 teams play 13-3 teams come playoff time than we are 8-8 teams play 9-7 teams. Which scenario do you prefer?

Last season, after opening 3-4, the Colts won nine in a row and finished 12-4. Their reward was to go on the road in the first round of the playoffs to play the 8-8 Chargers. The reasons for this – the Colts didn’t win their division thanks to the Titans’ 13-3 mark and the Chargers did thanks to the Broncos’ late collapse – is another argument altogether. For our purposes here, the point is that it’s not nearly as interesting to see .500 teams make the postseason (even if the Chargers did beat the Colts in that game last year). I want to see division winner with double digit victories. I want to see wild card teams have to battle with each other for that 10th or 11th win just to make it. If a team that goes 11-5 doesn’t make it, so be it (hello, ’08 Patriots!). But when mediocrity disguised as parity is the reason why, I’m not inclined to care as much.

There are always teams that make it with less than 10 wins. The Cardinals won the pathetic NFC West at 9-7 last year, then went to the Super Bowl. And once the playoffs happen,everyone’s record goes back to 0-0 and a battle of attrition begins. But it seems to me that for the regular season to mean even more than it already does, the teams that do the most damage should be the ones who make it to the postseason, even if such a team manages 14 wins because its schedule requires it to play teams like the Rams, Browns and Bucs . Furthermore, if a team gets fat on those lousy teams, the playoffs are an opportunity to see if it really has what it takes when the garbage is at home or playing golf.

So bring on the bums. Feed them to the wolves. I’ll take 45-10, 42-6, 35-7 and 38-0 any day.

This Week’s Five Best Teams

1. New Orleans: Down three touchdowns late in the first half on the road, all the Saints did was score 43 of the next 53 points, including 22 unanswered in the fourth quarter, to beat the shocked Dolphins. Anyone want to argue?

2. Indianapolis: It wasn’t exactly an even matchup for Peyton Manning and the Colts when they traveled to face the Rams, but the great teams are supposed to beat the snot out of the bad ones and winning 42-6 pretty much meets that requirement.

3. Denver: The 6-0 Broncos, who will face likely their sternest test yet this weekend in Baltimore, don’t rank higher than ninth in any major offensive category, but on defense, they are third against the run (79.7YPG), second in total yards allowed (262.5 YPG) and first in points allowed (11 PPG).

4. Minnesota: The Vikings lost but it was at Pittsburgh against the Steelers continually unbelievable defense. Plus, Adrian Peterson absolutely burying Steelers’ DB William Gay on a long, fourth quarter catch and run was such a huge hit, it hurt just to watch it. Amazing stuff.

5. Pittsburgh/New England (tie): Such a bummer these two teams won’t meet during the regular season this year. But the way both are playing right now, flying high into their bye weeks and considering the inconsistent playoff acumens of the teams currently ahead of them in the AFC, a postseason showdown doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

This Week’s Five Worst Teams

1. Washington: VP of football ops Vinny Cerrato, that genius of team-building and leadership, actually was quoted yesterday as saying he thinks the Redskins are playoff worthy. Obviously, he has not watched a ‘Skins game since 1983, when Joe Theismann, Riggo and a likely coked up Dexter Manley were roaming the RFK Stadium grounds.

2. St. Louis: The poor Rams. Just when it looked like there might be a glimmer of hope following their near miss last week at Jacksonville, the Colts come to town and whip their asses by 437 points. If they don’t beat the Lions this week, other than a possible W in Week 14 at the Titans, they may well go 0-16, which would then give them 26 straight losses.

3. Tennessee: Speaking of the Titans, they move up a spot in the polls just by virtue of us all not having to watch them roll over and quit in the first quarter for a week. By the way, with the Vince Young era, version 2.0 about to begin in Nashville, expect to see these guys on this list pretty much for the rest of the year.

4. Tampa Bay: Racking my brain trying to figure out of there’s ever been a team that’s two top quarterbacks (and I use the term top very loosely) are both named Josh.

5. Oakland/Cleveland (tie): If we gave JaMarcus Russell and Derek Anderson each 100 unchallenged throws to guys standing alone 10-15 yards away, would either of them be able to complete half? I give my vote to Anderson only because he seems like he sort of cares.

What’s Trendy

- The Bengals Offense: Remember when the Bears defense was good? If the guys playing for it now did at all, they probably forgot after Carson Palmer was 20-of-24 for 233 yards and 5TDs, Cedric Benson rushed for 189 yards and a score and Chad Ochocinco caught 10 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns in Cincy’s 45-10 drubbing of Chicago.

- Alex Smith, 49ers: The former No. 1 overall pick, who was made the backup the past two years to dudes named J.T. O’Sullivan and Shaun Hill, came off the bench to throw three second half TDs in nearly leading a great comeback at Houston. It was more touchdowns than he’s had since ’06 and now, he’s the San Francisco starter once more.

- Miles Austin/DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys: Austin, out of that renowned wide receiver breeding ground Monmouth University, has 16 catches for 421 yards and fourTDs in his last two games while Ware, who had 20 sacks last season and has four so far this year, signed a six-year, $78 million contract extension which includes $40 million up front.

What’s Not

- The Giants: Two weeks ago, they were No. 1 in our top teams poll. Then they gave up 78 points in their next two games and are again starting to resemble the team that flamed out in the ’08 season’s last month.

- John Fox, Panthers: Not sure I’ve ever seen a coach try so hard to get fired. Last week at home, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme threw three more picks, giving him 17 in his last eight games, and Carolina lost to the Bills despite outgaining them by almost 3-1. So naturally, Fox announced he’s keeping Delhomme as his starter because he gives the Panthers “the best chance to win.” He also gives Fox the best chance of being unemployed.

- The Browns: Not to pile on, but what the hell. Cleveland has been held without a single TD in four of its seven games so far this year. I wonder how many martinis owner Randy Lerner had thrown back when he gave Eric Mangini the keys to the car last winter?

And finally…

dick-jauronWe’ll end this week with a tip of the cap to Bills coach Dick Jauron. I had a chance to do a feature story on Jauron, a native of Swampscott, Mass., a few years ago when he became the head man in Buffalo and came away thinking that even though the Bills were long-time rivals of my favorite team, it would be hard to root against him nonetheless.

Jauron has been dealt a tough hand in Buffalo, playing twice a year against teams that have far more resources in much bigger markets. His personnel people haven’t exactly done him a lot of favors, from the drafting of the awful J.P.Losman at QB a few years ago to the ridiculous signing of Terrell Owens this past offseason. After failing to make the playoffs last year on the heels of a 6-2 start, the pressure rose for Jauron and when he fired his offensive coordinator on the eve of the season, it didn’t exactly look good. After playing a very competitive game against the Pats on opening night (a game they should have won), the Bills floundered, bottoming out with a 6-3 home loss to the pathetic Browns a few weeks ago in which Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson completed just two passes yet won anyway.

But since then, there’s been some life, first in a road win against the Jets then another victory on the road against Carolina. The Bills have won these two games mostly with defense -Jauron’s specialty -allowing just 28 points over their last three games with 10 interceptions, four by rookie Jairus Byrd in the two wins. They’ve also done this with Harvard product Ryan Fitzpatrick, who replaced injured starter Trent Edwards, at quarterback.

The Bills probably aren’t going to make the playoffs and likely will be pushed around on offense as long as Fitzpatrick is in there. But the fact that they didn’t roll over at 1-4 given all of the negatives that have been swirling around them since the mid-point of last year is a testament to Jauron, a good guy in a fairly lousy situation.

50th Anniversary Minute – the 1993 Patriots

by Brendon Rosenau, Patriots Daily Staff

It’s 1993 and the Patriots finished the season with a losing record (5-11) for the fifth straight year. Certainly, plenty had changed since the last time we saw the New England Patriots. Since the team reached the playoffs in 1986, an era of unprecedented (in New England) futility and ugliness flooded the team with the ferociousness of opposing defenses sacking Hugh Millen. As an article in Sports Illustrated that season stated;

“Toiling anonymously in pro football’s Siberia, Bledsoe…”

However, doom and gloom is not what we are about here at Patriots Daily. 1993 may not seem like a remarkable year, but a strong case can be made that it placed a hard kick in the butt of the sorry franchise and started them on the path to glory.

1993 would be the year of the Tuna aparcellss Bill Parcells began his four year stint with the team. Parcells first move may have been his greatest as he used the #1 draft pick to select Drew Bledsoe out of Washington State. Who can forget the endless debate of Bledsoe or Notre Dame golden boy Rick Mirer? Parcells made the right call and also made some other quality moves in the draft. He tabbed linebacker Chris Slade and wide receiver Vincent Brisby in the second round and a wideout by the name of Troy Brown in the eighth round.

As far as the season went, Bledsoe’s rookie year was rocky at times but he was 5-7 as a starter and by the end of the year showed the arm that would excite, and sometimes frustrate New England fans for years to come. He missed four games in the middle of the season with an injury and the team sputtered to a 1-11 record before ending the season with four straight wins. The Pats got on the winning side of the ledger with a riveting 7-2 win over Cincinnati in a battle of 1-11 teams. After wins over Cleveland and Indianapolis, Bledsoe turned in the finest effort of his young career with his first career 300 yard passing game in a 33-27 win over Miami. Bledsoe finished the game with 329 yards and 4 touchdowns.

What are your memories of that year? I remember the great play of linebackers Vincent Brown and Chris Slade and the outstanding production of my main man Ben “Winter” Coates.

LEADERS

  • Drew Bledsoe 2494 yards, 15 TD (T-10th NFL)
  • Leonard Russell 300 carries (2nd) 1,088 yards (6th), 7 TD (T-9th)
  • Ben Coates 53 catches-659 yards, 8TD (T-7th),
  • Vincent Brisby 45 catches -626 yards
  • Michael Timpson 654 yards
  • Vincent Brown 158 tackles
  • Chris Slade 9.5 sacks
  • Andre Tippett 8.5 sacks
  • Maurice Hurst 4 INT,

All Pro
Vincent Brown (LILB),

Mute the Commish – and Other Media Observations

Jimmy_JohnsonWas it just me, or did you also immediately hit the Mute button when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in the broadcast booth?

I have absolutely zero interest in listening to anything that guy has to say.

I found this from the FOX pregame show to be of interest:

Analyst Jimmy Johnson on teams running up the score: “The New England Patriots have been accused several times of running up the score in 2007.  Last Sunday Tom Brady set a new record with five TD passes in the second quarter.  Patriots beat Tennessee 59-0.  You ask, ‘why weren’t the substitutes in earlier?’ Every NFL player has incentives for every statistic imaginable from touchdowns to sacks to amount of playing time.  You put a good player on the bench and he doesn’t make his extra money, you’ll have one very unhappy employee.  As a coach, I never wanted my players to ever get into a bad habit of going half-speed.  Coaches can’t stand sloppy play.  Once against the Bears with the playoffs wrapped up and a comfortable lead, I substituted for Emmitt Smith with Curvin Richards, his backup.  Curvin fumbled and Chicago scored.  Curvin fumbled again and Chicago scored again.  I cut Curvin as soon as we got in the locker room.  We didn’t turn the ball over again until Leon Lett’s famous fumble in the Super Bowl so it made a point.  I’ve been criticized for running up the score.  One year at the University of Miami, [former Notre Dame head coach] Ara Parseghian criticized me for blocking a punt against Notre Dame in the 4th quarter and going up 58-7.  I only had 10 players on the field, they were substitutes and half of them didn’t know what they were doing.  Deep down I loved that we won by 50 points.  We paid Notre Dame back for all those years that the Irish beat up on those cupcake teams that had no chance to win against them.  Believe me, players and coaches love being on the plus side of a blowout.  There is pride and bragging rights involved.  If you don’t agree you’re saying the NFL should have a mercy rule like they have in tee ball for six-year-olds.  I don’t want that, the fans done want that either.”

Over on ESPN, Tom Jackson actually had something good to say about the Patriots on the ESPN pregame show:

(Are the Patriots an elite team?)
Jackson: “They are 4-2. They are the leader in their division again. This reminds me more of the team that won the championships, than the team that won the 18 straight. Grind it out, win the game at the end, play 64 minutes. This is the team that’s the championship team.”

On NFL Network, Michael Irvin was impressed with Tom Brady: “All I needed to see was Tom Brady take control and say, ‘I will have confidence in my knee.’ It wasn’t a physically thing, it was a mental decision. Once he made that decision, we know he already has all the physical tools to make things happen. He’s starting to get back on track and that’s scary to a lot of people in this league.” – Irvin on Patriots QB Tom Brady

Making the Grades – Game 7 at Tampa (London)

report-cardBy Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff

94-7. That’s the combined score of the last two Pats games after Sunday’s London Bowl romp over the utterly awful, 0-7 Tampa Bay Bucs . It was another rout, not as dramatic but nearly as dominant as last week’s whitewashing of the Titans. But the conclusions are a bit murkier this time around. It’s hard to say exactly what the game tells us about the Patriots given the near complete lack of competition. Watching the game was like watching a scrimmage between the Pats and some Eastern Mass. high school team like Brockton or Xaverian (though likely not as good as either of those two teams). There were times when it was so easy for the Pats that they clearly looked bored and on top of that, between the lack of a real threat and the fact that some players had to have been super jet-lagged, the performance as a whole was nothing to write home about. Obviously, guys like Wes Welker, Brandon Meriweather, Vince Wilfork, Tully Banta-Cain and Jerod Mayo need to be singled out, as all of them were tremendous in their own ways. Other individuals looked great, too. But there was a sense all through the game that if the Pats had been playing a decent/real team the same way, they’d have been in trouble. Still, a win is undoubtedly a win, especially headed into a bye week so without further ado, let’s get to this week’s report card, now served hot with a side of bangers and mash and a pint of room temperature Fuller’s Vintage Ale.

OFFENSE: Overall Grade: B

A mixed bag here, big time. Welker and the other receivers? Fantastic. The running game? Lousy. Tom Brady? Except for a couple of rather ugly looking hiccups, very good. The O-Line? Dreadful. Again, the lack of competition from Tampa, which was outclassed pretty much everywhere on the field, means that such discrepancies, including four three-and-outs, can be tolerated. But they can’t be forgotten, especially with a division game against Miami, this year’s edition of prime time in Indianapolis, a rematch with the Jets and a trip to New Orleans for a Monday nighter against the Saints making up the Pats’ November docket.

Quarterbacks: A-

Brady got himself another early shower thanks to a ho-hum, 23-of-32, 308-yard, three TD day. At times it appeared that he was toying with the hapless Bucs secondary, frequently going to his third and sometimes fourth read with little drop off (see the TD pass to Sam Aiken). He faced a little more pressure than I’m sure either he or the coaching staff would have liked, mostly due to an unusually weak showing from his line. And on his two picks, which equaled his previous total, both times he looked like he was just trying to mess around, perhaps out of sheer boredom, especially on the play in the end zone when he tried to throw an alley-oop to Randy Moss over double coverage. Regardless of the circumstances of the game, though, the fact remains that Brady is looking more and more like his record-setting, pre-injury, 2007 self each week. It was the first time since ’07 he went for 300+ yards and he now has nine of his 15 TD passes in his last two games, appearances which total just over six quarters of action. He’s making all of the throws, looks comfortable seeing the entire field and is improvising as well as possible when needs be, showing some added fluidity when sliding away from pressure. It’s not going to be as easy for him in the coming weeks as it’s been against scrub teams like Tennessee and Tampa, but the progress he’s made even in just the time since the second half of the Denver game has to make both fans and Brady himself feel good about the future.

Running Backs: C

Last week, the Bucs allowed the disappointing Panthers 267 yards on the ground. On Sunday, they allowed the Pats just 107 on 28 carries (3.8 YPA). Whether it was in the game plan to eschew the run until the game was out of hand in the second half or not, the first game with Laurence Maroney as the lead back generated mediocre results. Maroney carried just 13 times but he managed only 43 yards in those attempts, barely three yards per. Again, it was not the line’s best day by any stretch. But Maroney, who seemed to run with some purpose against the Titans, reverted back to his dancing fool self on many of his rushes, tiptoeing his way to one two-yard gain after another. He did find the end zone in the fourth quarter after the game was already over, giving him two touchdowns in his last two games. But it was not a terribly strong performance and if Sammy Morris misses significant time after the bye and Maroney has to keep being the main man, I’m not sure how balanced the Pats will be able to be against some of their tougher upcoming foes. In Maroney’s defense, BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn’t do much either, managing only six yards on seven carries. And of course, on a 2nd-and-long, Kevin Faulk took a draw play 13 yards which led to a very manageable, third-and-short conversion.

Wide Receivers: A

In the eye-popping, amazing factoid of the week category, Welker, who caught 10 passes for the second straight week, now leads the NFL with 46 catches even though he missed two games. Welker, who was a perfect 10-for-10 (Brady targeted him 10 times) and posted 107 yards and a score on those 10 grabs, continues to be the most valuable, important member of the Pats offense not named Brady, and that includes the amazing Moss. he is now on pace for 105 catches, down a tick from the 111 and 112 of the past two seasons, but excellent nonetheless. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of play he can’t make, whether it’s the way he runs every type of screen to perfection, to his innate ability to always get to the first down marker, to the way he almost always picks up significant yards after the catch.Welker , who reminds me of Troy Brown more and more every time I watch him play, is magnificent. Elsewhere, it was nice to see Aiken, the special teams ace who seemed to have such a hard time with wide receiver duties earlier in the year, break through and score his first career TD, especially the way he did it. Aiken stayed moving as Brady was forced to scramble out of the pocket and consulted all of his secondary reads before dumping it off. Aiken took the short throw and was off, shedding a couple of tackles and showing good speed in sprinting to the end zone for the Pats longest play of the season (54 yards). Brandon Tate got some reps as after coming off the PUP list in the wake of Julian Edelman’s broken arm and got on the stat sheet with a pretty, 11-yard end around run early on. And Moss, who looked banged up, contributed 69 yards on five catches, one of them a classic catch and run that went for 39 yards. It was arguably this group’s best day of the year, pretty much entirely due to Welker.

Tight Ends: A

In the second quarter, I turned to one of my viewing partners and asked point blank if Ben Watson was even playing. Was he ever. Watson only had one catch, but it was a thing of beauty that it went a long way toward this grade. Matched up one on one against a Tampa linebacker, Watson, lined up wide in a five-receiver set, ran a flag route, easily got a step and a half on his man, roped in a perfectly feathered Brady pass over his outside shoulder and practically glided into the end zone. It was another reminder of how immensely talented Watson is and what he’s capable of doing when he is freed from his blocking responsibilities, at which he’s become exceptional. Chris Baker, also a great blocker, made three solid receptions as well, one of which a tightrope, sideline grab on which he absorbed a crushing hit yet held on to the ball. Going forward, the Pats have to feel good about their situation at the tight end position.

Offensive Line: C-

It’s kind of hard to fathom such a lousy grade for anyone after such a resounding win. But yesterday’s shoddy performance by the offensive line was worrisome in that it came against a bad defensive front and was the second sub-standard game for this group in its last three games. Let’s start on the left side, where Logan Mankins , who I thought got his crappy game of the year out of his system in Denver two weeks ago, was even worse on Sunday. He had four penalties – three, count ‘em three false starts, and a hold – two of which led to stalled drives. Next to him, rookie Sebastian Vollmer, who was so good against Tennessee and got off to a great start against against the Bucs , seemed to get dinged up in the second quarter and was not the same afterward with his two holds on the second half’s opening drive showed. Both Stephen Neal and Dan Koppen had penalties too (Koppen’s his weekly false start) meaning that the line accounted for eight of the Pats 10 penalties on the day. That sucks, folks. What compounded the suck factor was the fact that Brady was on the move a little more than what’s comfortable, even from the shotgun, and that there were few holes to be found on run plays. Once again, these are fixable things and Matt Light may well be back after the bye to stabilize things. But by no means can this group play this poorly against a good team and get away with it the way it did on Sunday.

DEFENSE: Overall Grade: A-

Big day for Meriweather, who made two interceptions, returning one 39 yards for a touchdown, the Pats first of the kind since December, ’07. Meriweather’s performance highlighted a very good day for the D, which was faced with a completely inept Tampa offense and barely broke a sweat. The Bucs managed just 240 total yards and one scoring drive. Their best skill players – Cadillac Williams, Kellen Winslow, Antonio Bryant,et al – were pretty much neutralized. Their inexperienced quarterback, Josh Johnson, was a mess, completing just nine of 26 passes for 156 yards and three picks. All because they were taken advantage of by the Pats D, which was opportunistic and aggressive. Even Derrick Burgess had a sack! And although Ty Warren was carted off with an apparent ankle injury (which could prove incredibly costly later on) and Adalius Thomas’s return barely registered, it’s hard to be less than thrilled with the fact that the defense laid down the hammer.

Defensive Line: A-

Other than a couple of early runs by Williams, the line was practically impenetrable. Wilfork saw some extra blocking but handled it well and then some, leading the defense’s forcing of the Tampa running game to a paltry 3.4YPA . Mike Wright had another sack and was in on some key stops. Rookie Myron Pryor got more reps in several sub packages and responded with three more tackles including one for a loss, and a hit on Johnson. And Warren, before he left, led the unit with six tackles, all while facing the usual array of double teams. But as a group, perhaps the most important thing these guys did was contain Johnson and keep him in the pocket. Johnson had run for 126 yards on just 21 carries in his previous three games, making him a real threat if/when he got outside (his 33-yard TD pass to Bryant in which he scrambled away from pressure was an example of how dangerous he could be under those circumstances). But on Sunday, he had one rush for seven yards, another credit to the D-line.

Linebackers: A-

How about Tully Banta-Cain, eh? Dude gets cut for salary cap purposes, re-signs the next day then comes out in that week’s game and posts possibly the best game of his career.Banta-Cain. Normally used as an outside pass rusher, Banta -Cain has seen more time in run defense situations this season and has responded vigorously. On Sunday, he had five tackles, two for losses. One came when he shed a block and buried Williams behind the line of scrimmage and the other came when he read a screen to Derrick Ward and completely blew the play up, dropping Ward for negative yards. He led the linebacking corps, which mostly had great balance. Mayo was a force, coming up with a game-high eight tackles and Gary Guyton , who spent a good deal of time playing on the weak side in both 3-4 and 4-3 formations, added a full stat sheet performance with three tackles, one for a loss, a big hit on Johnson and a pass deflection. Junior Seau made an impact in limited time and Pierre Woods also made a couple of plays, though he had a bigger impact on special teams than in the regular defense. Burgess, who has clearly won the favor of his coaches given the amount of playing time he has gotten versus the minuscule amount of plays he’s made, must be getting assigned to do more menial work than he’s ever been used to. Regardless, he had an active game, possibly his best of the season, registering a couple of key tackles and, as mentioned before, a sack. Only Thomas kept this group from earning the A, thanks to another invisible performance. To Thomas’ credit, Bill Belichick made it a point to single him out for his role in a first half short yardage stop. And ESPN’s Mike Reiss noted in his blog that Thomas didn’t play a lot of snaps since he isn’t a part of too many sub packages and the Pats employed many of them all day due to the lopsided nature of the game. But despite these factors, the bottom line is production and Thomas, with just one tackle, had yet another game in which he was barely a footnote.

Secondary: A

The sky is the limit for Meriweather, who looks more and more like the real deal as time passes. Now the leader of the DBs, he plastered his two picks on the Bucs early in the game, signaling that the Pats pass defense would be a force to be reckoned with all day. Brandon McGowan once again played practically the whole game and delivered, whether he was deep in coverage, up with the linebackers for run support, or staying with Winslow, a supposed good player who finished with a measly two catches for nine yards. Darius Butler, who was beaten on the TD pass to Bryant, probably deserves a mulligan after missing a lot of practice last week. Still, he bounced back strong, racking up the Pats third pick late in the second quarter, his second of the season. Jonathan Wilhite started again and didn’t have to do much thanks to Tampa’s anemic passing game and Leigh Bodden was again a primary player, seeing as much action as anyone in the defensive backfield and contributing a couple of tackles and pass deflections. Rookie Patrick Chung, on the heels of his most playing time of the year last week against Tennessee, followed that up with four tackles and his first career sack in filling in for James Sanders, who was playing for the first time since hurting his shoulder against Baltimore a few weeks ago. If there’s any down news to be found among this group, it’s about veteran Shawn Springs, who may well be done. After getting roasted in Denver and barely playing last week, Springs once again barely saw the field against the Bucs. The 15-year vet has been battling some injuries since training camp, looks to have become an afterthought.

Special Teams: B-

It’s all about punter Chris Hanson. Hanson had an awful day, and it wasn’t the first time that’s happened this season. On six kicks, Hanson averaged just 37.3 yards which doesn’t fly. He also had a punt blocked, which may well have been just as much the line’s fault as his, but he still must shoulder some of the blame. ON 24 punts this season, Hanson is averaging under 40 yards per kick while posting a net average of 33.3, down over five yards from his career mark. Again, that just doesn’t fly. Both coverage teams were fine and Steve Gostkowski didn’t need to do much more than kick multiple extra points. In the kick return game, Tate posted a healthy, 22-yard average and Welker added to his monster day with a solid 13.3-yard average on four punt runbacks.

Coaching: A

I feel like at this point, any more analysis would just be a waste of time so I’ll leave you with this. One coach in this game has three Super Bowl rings and a team clearly on the road to yet another playoff berth. The other is 33 years old (also as old as I am – hello!), had never even been a coordinator prior to this season and reportedly had to call his GM to ask permission to insert his rookie, first-round quarterback in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of hand. Any guesses who’s who?

Take A Lap – QB Josh Johnson

josh-johnsonby Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

After a 35-7 win, Patriots Daily had to give a second look to determine who should take the dreaded lap. At first glance, Tampa Coach Raheem Morris seemed a strong contestant, but starting quarterback Josh Johnson ended up in our headline.

Morris made one glaringly bad decision. Losing 28-7 late in the third quarter, the Buccaneers faced a fourth and six on the Patriots 35. Instead of going for it and making a bid for a semi-interesting contest, Morris called for a punt. Not to steal columnist Gregg Easterbrook’s impending thunder here, but why give the ball back? New England ended up scoring anyway on a 10-play, 89-yard drive culminating in Laurence Maroney’s walk-in TD and the 35-7 final.

Beyond that iffy call, though, Morris deserves credit for keeping this thing as respectable as possible given the contrasts in personnel. Tampa picked off Tom Brady twice and managed to close the margin to 21-7 at the half. Nope, the burden of the lap goes to Johnson, whose performance can kindly be described as rough: nine of 26 passes completed for 126 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Compiled with only seven yards rushing, Sunday stands out as his worst performance of the season.

The young QB continues to learn, in much the same way a dog (and in some dumb cases, a human) learns about a shock collar. Overall, Johnson has had some reliable performances and should get the benefit of the doubt. But for throwing a pick for a touchdown and missing receivers throughout the afternoon, we’re afraid he owes us a lap.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

PD Game Ball – DB Brandon Meriweather

meriweatherby Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Sunday’s game against overmatched Tampa provided plenty of opportunities for various Patriots to step up. Tom Brady completed 72 percent of his passes (23 of 32) and broke the 300-yard mark while connecting on three touchdowns. Wes Welker caught 10 passes for 107 yards and took a “Family Circus” route to the end zone for a TD. Jerod Mayo’s eight tackles led the defense that kept the Bucs a safe distance from winning.

Of all the candidates though, Brandon Meriweather stood out first and foremost. First, because he ended Tampa Bay’s opening drive. Foremost, because unlike any other 2009 Patriots defender, he returned a turnover for a touchdown.

The initial pick would have given Meriweather a solid chance for the coveted PD prize; the second put him over the top. With Tampa quarterback Josh Johnson seeming to regain some confidence on the ensuing drive (two completions for 40 yards), Meriweather shut the door once again. He tracked a high Johnson pass and intercepted the young QB at New England’s 15, returning it 31 yards. The Buccaneers would not get as deep into Patriots territory until they scored near the end of the half, facing a 21-7 deficit at the break.

For setting the tone early and settling nerves throughout, the three-year safety earns this week’s PD Game Ball. Enjoy the week off, Mr. Meriweather.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Gut Check – Game Seven at Tampa/London

brady-bucsby Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

New England got what they came for in London: a win against a struggling-yet-feisty Tampa team that must continue its noble search for victory back in the states. The 35-7 tilt ended up about as ugly as it sounds, with inconsistent play on both sides of the ball.

Credit goes to the Patriots defense for keeping Tampa at bay (so to speak) and to the offense for overcoming mistakes and piling on when it counted.

Some quick observations in the wake of New England’s second straight stress-free win…

We Wish You A Meriweather: Keeping in tune with a few malls’ wicked early Christmas call-ups (may I buy a Halloween card first, please?) good tidings to safety Brandon Meriweather, who scored New England’s first points on a 39-yard interception return during Tampa’s opening drive. Meriweather ended the Buccaneers’ next possession with another interception.

M-M Good: Linebacker Jerod Mayo led the team with eight total tackles. Safety Brandon McGowan tied for second with five. Maybe they got inspired by Meriweather and the whole “Name-starts-with-M” thing.

Okay, probably not.

Banta-Cain Is Banta-Able: Outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain continued to impress, notching five tackles on the day. Two of those came for losses (he helped the defense limit Cadillac Williams to 29 yards on 11 carries), while another happened on an impressive rundown of a screen pass.

I Spy With My Little Guyton: Nice work by linebacker Gary Guyton limiting the rush opportunities of Tampa quarterback Josh Johnson. This season Johnson had enjoyed some success on the ground, but Sunday he had only one run for seven yards, his lowest output of the year.

World Wide Wesley Federation: I guess he’s pretty good on the other side of the Atlantic, too. Ten catches, 107 yards, one touchdown. Just another day on the job for Wes Welker, who has 46 receptions in five games played this season.

Break The Faulk Out: Way back in 1999, New England drafted Kevin Faulk as a starting running back. When that position didn’t suit him, the diminutive dynamo started filling the niche of a third-down specialist. Eleven seasons later, Faulk reeled in catches 399 and 400 on Sunday, adding to his team record for most receptions for a running back.

He’d Been Aiken For A Score: Congratulations to Sam Aiken on the first touchdown of his seven-year career. Carrying the pass 49 of the 54 total yards warrants a link to the hightlight. Savor it, Sam.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Matchups Of The Week – Patriots at Bucs (London)

The Patriots face the hapless 0-6 Bucs in London this afternoon. Admittedly, it’s not a very exciting game outside the fact that it’s in Europe, but there are still interesting things to look out for in this upcoming matchup:

1) Patriots Running game vs. Bucs Linebackers

With Fred Taylor and now Sammy Morris out, the play of Laurence Maroney, BenJarvis Green-Ellis (The Law Firm), and Kevin Faulk will be the focus of this week’s game.  Laurence finally showed some glimpses of his early career promise against the Titans. Will that continue?  The Law Firm is a darling of sports radio call-ins and he will certainly get some touches this week. It will be interesting to see if sports radio got something right for once.

2) Sebastian Vollmer vs. Bucs Pass Rush

Against the Titans last week, everybody looked great including Sea Bass. He stopped an elite Titans pass rusher, Kyle Vanden Bosch, dead in his tracks and pulled very nicely in front of Maroney on his 45 yard touchdown scamper that blew the game wide open. This surprise second round pick is a favorite amongst Patriot junkies and look for him to build on last week’s impressive performance.

3) Tom Brady vs. Himself

Clearly, Tom had a great game against the Titans. He was able to throw the deep ball, and calmly step into his passes. Was this performance a result of him finally shaking off the rust? Returning back to form from major injuries is never a linear progression. Tom will certainly have bad days along with the good, but hopefully there will be fewer and fewer days like the one he had in Denver as the season progresses.

4) Cadillac Williams vs. Patriots Linebackers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have few offensive options. Cadillac Williams is the first player to successfully come back from patellar ruptures in both knees and is have a pretty nice year for himself. Look for Guyton and Mayo too keep Cadillac under 100 total yards on the day.

5) Kellen Winslow and Antonio Bryant vs. Patriots Secondary

Antonio Bryant had a great year last year, but is off to a sluggish start as a result of his off-season knee surgery. Kellen Winslow, on the other hand, is quietly having a decent year. Josh Johnson will look for these two early and often. If the resurgent Patriots secondary can contain them, it will spell for a very long day for the Bucs.