November 22, 2014

Gut Check – Game 11 at Saints

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Oh when the Saints, go marchin’ in, Oh when the Saints go marchin’ in,

Oh, it would help to cover their receivers, when the Saints go marchin’ in.

Given a chance to prove they could flower under pressure, New England instead festered in the dung heap, falling to the Saints 38-17. Whether throwing an interception to Mike McKenzie or failing to cover Devery Henderson on a 75-yard catch-and-stride touchdown, the Patriots looked about as at-home in New Orleans as a group of prohibitionists.

New England gave up almost 500 yards of offense, 371 from the passing of Drew Brees (five TDs), who looked like he was playing flag football all night.

As I try to stop shaking my head, some quick thoughts below…

Road Worriers: All four of the Patriots’ losses have come on the road.

Half-Hearted: In their losses, New England has been outscored in the second half 47-10.

bradyTom Turkey: Despite having support from a decent running game, quarterback Tom Brady never got into a rhythm (21 of 36, 237 yards). He threw a momentum-killing pick in the first quarter, missed open receivers deep (Randy Moss and Sam Aiken) and finished off his performance with an interception to nowhere.

Light Duty: Left tackle Matt Light got back on the field and did a solid job at left tackle. Nick Kaczur at right tackle? Not so much. Here’s hoping rookie Sebastian Vollmer returns and gets some time at that spot to show what he can do.

Lo Fidelity: When running back Sammy Morris returned to the active roster, we feared that Laurence Maroney might take offense. Well, however he felt about it, it worked, as LoMo carried 15 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns, running with the kind of ferocity seen in predators on the Discovery Channel.

(For those of you who have remained loyal to LoMo, congratulations. Now stop; it’s getting a little annoying.)

We’ll Have A Gay Old Time: Saints cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer sat, making way for new free agent McKenzie and old friend Randall Gay. You would think the Patriots would have been able to take advantage of that.

Yeah. You would think.

Next week, 7-4 New England travels to Miami. Here’s hoping the Pats can score in the second half.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Trading Places with the Canal Steet Chronicles

canalstreetchroniclesFor tonight’s Monday night matchup between the unbeaten New Orleans Saints and the Patriots, we’re turning to Saints blog Canal Street Chronicles for a Bayou perspective. Dave Cariello from CSC was kind enough to answer a few questions for us, and we did the same for him.

The Saints offense has been unbelievable this season, they really look unstoppable at times. Are there any weaknesses? If you were the Patriots, what would you try to take away or attack?

I’ve been asked this question many times. My answer is always the same: Get to Brees early, often and always. Defenses need to bring constant pressure, from all angles and positions. Mixing it up keeps Brees guessing and gets him off his game. It’s also key to make sure that all rushers have their hands in the air and are attempting to bat down balls at the line. Brees is on the shorter side; with pressure in his face and hands in the air he’s been known to have bad days. Lastly, teams need to remember to play the entire sixty minutes of football. Never give up this plan of attack even with a lead. The Saints are fourth quarter kings, outscoring their opponents 105-24 in the final fifteen minutes.

The Saints defense is much improved this season…what has been the biggest difference? Darren Sharper? Gregg Williams? Something else?

Most of it really does have to do with Gregg Williams. He has completely changed the culture of this defense as a whole and has already gotten so much more out of mostly the same players from previous years. Williams’ defense emphasizes blitzing, turnovers and populating the ball; all in an aggressive manner. Former defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs ran a very plain scheme but Williams has proven these guys are capable of so much more.
That’s not to say the off-season acquisition of players like Darren Sharper and Jabari Greer haven’t proved to be genius. Those two alone have made a huge difference. But I still think the coaching and culture change is the more overriding factor.

Where would you attack that Saints defense?

The Saints are a little weak in the run defense department. With defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis injured, their ability to stop the run up the middle has declined a bit. And if a rusher can get around the edge, they might have the advantage against linebacker Scott Shanle. To be successful, however, the Patriots would really have to dedicate to it.
For this game, starting cornerback Tracy Porter is sidelined with an injury. If the Patriots could get a desirable mismatch against whoever will be substituting for Porter, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them exploit that.

Who is a player on defense that perhaps isn’t well known nationally, but who Patriots fans will know well after Monday night?

Well, if starting cornerback Tracy Porter wasn’t injured for this one he would be my definite answer. Since he doesn’t really qualify, I’m going to go with defensive tackle DeMario Pressley. He was called up from the practice squad after the team suffered a few injuries to their starters and has played pretty well in their place. He’s not mistake free but I doubt you’ve heard of him and he has the ability to make a name for himself in this league if he works hard.

Can the Saints run the table and go 16-0? Will they?

The Saints can do anything they want. I can tell you that I think I will have a better answer for you after this particular game. Saints fans are going to learn a lot about their team and the possibilities of this season when they face the Patriots on Monday night. This game is by far their biggest challenge this season. If they do manage to beat New England, the road still won’t be easy. Their remaining schedule is favorable but teams are only going to continue to play the Saints tougher and tougher in an effort to be the team to take down the Saints.  Plus, three of the Saints remaining games are against division opponents. Those are always tough and hard-fought.

Prediction?
It’s gonna be a close one. I’m gonna go with 35-32 Saints.

Matchups Of The Week – Patriots at Saints

By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff

This Monday night game featuring the unbeaten Saints versus the dangerous Pats will surely be a barn-burner. Look for the Patriots to try to get the upper hand in these 5 matchups:

1. Bill Belichick vs. Sean Peyton

Belichick-PaytonBill Belichick is the proven guru. He comes up with ingenious game plans specifically tailored to each opponent, and he has littered the football world with his staff. Sean Peyton is young and still relatively unproven; will he crumble under the pressure of this win streak? Will he be intimidated into making risky calls, or trying to play a “too perfect a game”? Will he be able to handle the building anxiety inside the locker room? It was clear to everyone who was paying attention to the 2007 Patriots that the winning streak was taking its toll, and if it could affect that veteran group, it will surely impact the Saints.  Interestingly, both coaches were assistants under Bill Parcells prior to their jobs.

2. Patriots Receivers vs. Saint Secondary

Wes Welker is putting up Hall of Fame numbers and seems to be completely unstoppable. Randy is doing his gazelle-like thing, forcing opposing defenses to cover him over the top with a safety. These guys make the rest of the skilled position players better. As a result, Julian Edelman, Ben Watson, and Chris Baker roam freely in the secondary. Meanwhile, the Saints secondary is beat up with Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter, and Randall Gay all possibly out for this contest. Even if they play, their effectiveness comes into question. The Patriots offense has to capitalize on this weakness in order to have a successful outing.

3. Laurence Maroney vs. Saints Defensive Line

The Saints are 19th in rushing defense, giving up 115.7 yards per game. This is an incredible amount considering that they are 10-0 and they rack up so many points that opposing teams have to give up on the run and start airing it out. The Patriots have to take advantage of this. This task lies on the shoulders of the much maligned, Laurence Maroney, who is quietly picking up steam; he seems to be ‘dithering’ less and plowing over people at the end of his runs.

4. Patriots Secondary vs. Saints Receivers

As any fantasy footballer knows, the Saints have a very potent offense, but they like to spread the ball around and on any given Sunday any particular receiver can have a big day. With Lance Moore out, the Saints still have Marquis Colston, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson and Jeremy Shockey. Needless to say, this will be a big game for the Patriots young secondary and hopefully they can avoid any big gaffes on Monday night.

5. Saints Rushing vs. Patriots Linebackers

Apparently blitzing Drew Brees doesn’t really work; He is too smart and as a result the Saints are the least-blitzed team in the league. This coupled with the fact that the Patriots don’t have any elite pass rushers pretty much eliminates that possibility out of the game plan. So the more likely scenario is that Bill Belichick will try to contain the potent Saints rushing attack.

First Impressions – New Orleans Saints

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

A terrific Monday night match-up is at hand between the 10-0 Saints and 7-3 Patriots. But, despite all the hype, this is actually one of the two games the Patriots could most afford to lose along with the Carolina game, given that they’re against NFC opponents. But the reality for the Patriots is, after the loss to the Colts and with some still tough matchups on the horizon such as in Miami and in Houston, they can’t “afford” to lose any games. They may, but each one risks the coveted bye and #2 seed position once the playoffs come. So, they do in fact “need” this game and it would probably do a lot for the team’s confidence to get it as this will be the toughest opponent they’ll see the rest of this regular season.

For the Saints, they pretty much have the division sewn up. But home field advantage throughout the playoffs is still in question and they lack a “signature” win that could come at the expense of the still-feared Patriots. The Saints offense is as good as advertised and as good as the Patriots have seen in the Bill Belichick years. The Saints defense, while decent, is really pretty much middle-of-the-pack. The task for both teams, just slow down the opponent’s offense a bit and outscore them. While usually what is popularly thought to occur in NFL games never comes to pass when they actually get between the lines, this may be one time it lives up to the expectations. With these two offenses, expect a shootout and a lot of scoring and fun Monday night.

QB Drew Brees (#9):

drew_breesBrees is in the conversation with the Patriots’ Tom Brady and Colts’ Peyton Manning as the best quarterback in the NFL. Originally a second round choice of the San Diego Chargers, Brees has really developed into a top talent. Now 30 years old, there were questions about Brees’ size when he came into the NFL as he stands only 6 feet tall and isn’t the biggest guy in the world physically either. While in college Brees brought Purdue to their first Rose Bowl in 2001 in over three decades. Now with the Saints, Brees is leading the franchise to heights they’ve never known before including the 2006 NFC Championship Game and now a 10-0 record here in 2009. He has an excellent 22 to 9 TD/INT ratio and is very good moving around the pocket and throws well on the run. Brees owns a 2-0 record in his career as a starter against the Patriots and Bill Belichick, having beaten them with the Chargers back in 2002 and 2005. Still, despite his success against the Patriots this year will be only the third year in his eight years as a starting quarterback he’ll lead a team to the post-season. His career post-season record so far is 1-2.

RBs Reggie Bush (#25) Pierre Thomas (#23) and Mike Bell (#21):

Once upon a time, Bush was one of the most explosive, electrifying and dangerous (to defenses) player to ever sprint across the college football landscape. Now he is part of the Saints triumvirate of running backs they trot out, each with different skills, strengths and weaknesses. Bush can still be a breakaway threat and is a very, very good pass catcher but the fact is he is not an every down back, has averaged a pedestrian 3.9 per carry for his career (though 5.0 this year) and is not quite as explosive as he used to be after major knee injury. He is more like the Saints version of Kevin Faulk and gets about 10 touches per game. Here is one thing to keep an eye on, Bush will put the ball on the ground with 16 fumbles in his career and more than 1 every 50 times he touches it.

Pierre Thomas may be the best of the three backs. He went undrafted out of Illinois, that was a serious oversight. The truth is Thomas was a NFL talent in college but for whatever reason always rotated early in his career with other backs who were good college backs, but not the talent Thomas was. His senior year Rashard Mendenhall, now with the Steelers, took carries from him. There was some thought he could play fullback when he came into the league, but he is slimmed down and showing very good elusiveness as a tailback these days. Thomas is averaging an electric 5.6 per carry and leads the Saints in rushing. He is the best all-around back on the team as he can do a little of everything, run wide, run inside with power, get out in space and even catch some passes.

Mike Bell is probably the most powerful back of the three and the best pure inside runner. Like Thomas, Bell went undrafted but has proven to be a very productive NFL player. Bell runs with good power and you’ll see him in short yardage and also he is good at killing the clock when the Saints have the lead, which they have had a lot this year. He isn’t much of a pass catcher, with only 2 on the season, but the Saints don’t really call on him to do that. Bell may be a bit of a fumbler as well with 4 in 320 career touches or once every 80 touches or so.

WR Marques Colston (#12):

Colston was an absolute steal of a 7th round draft choice in 2006 and Patriots fans are about to discover how good this guy really is. He is somewhat similar to Randy Moss in that, while probably not quite as fast, he is big at 6’4″ 225 lbs. and presents huge match up problems for most cornerbacks in the NFL. He is simply tall enough to snatch balls thrown high and has good leaping ability and he is strong enough to physically shield off defenders and get to balls that way. He has fantastic hands as well. Given the other speed receivers and excellent tight ends the Saints have, its difficult to just focus on Colston and that is going to make dealing with him a very tall chore for the Patriots on Monday.

DE Will Smith (#91):

Smith is an underrated defensive end with 45 sacks in his 6 NFL seasons and 8.5 so far this year. He faced the Patriots once before in 2005 and had a sack and a half as well as a forced fumble in a 24-17 Saints loss in Foxboro. The Patriots generally do a good job on good pass rushers, but Smith is definitely a player they’ll have to account for and who shows up in both the passing and running game. He plays with emotion as well and fires up his teammates.

CB Randall Gay (#20):

Patriots fans will remember Gay as the undrafted free agent who ended up starting as a rookie in 2004, including in a winning Super Bowl effort. Two injury plagued years were followed up with a solid campaign for the Pats in 2007 that ultimately landed Gay in the Super Bowl again. He left following that season for the mega-contract he is now playing with for the Saints. A Louisiana native and LSU grad who won a National Championship there is playing at home and playing well now for the undefeated Saints. Last year he started 13 of the 14 games he played for the Saints, but this year he has only started 3 of the 10 Saints game, though he has started the last two. Gay is a solid player who can be beat and occasionally is, but also makes some plays, is solid against the run and is a good overall player. As the Patriots well know.

Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams:

One of the more encouraging aspects of this game that suggests the Patriots could win this game is Williams. Beyond the mediocre statistical ranking in both yards allowed and points allowed, the Saints defense is coordinated by Williams, a coach the Patriots often have dominated over the years. When he was head coach of the Buffalo Bills between 2001 and 2003, the Patriots went 5-1 against him. When he moved on to coordinate the Washington Redskins defense, the Patriots lit him up and his defense for 52 points in 2007 and it was lucky the number was that low. They have gone 6-1 against his defenses during the Bill Belichick era averaging more than 30 points per game in their victories. Given that the Saints only have an average defense anyway this year and given the proficiency of the Patriots offense overall and particularly against Williams in the past, it seems reasonable to conclude the Patriots will score somewhere in the mid-30’s to low 40’s in this game and if they can slow down the Saints offense at all, they’ll win.

Saints Resources:

College Scout – November 28, 2009

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

We’re down to the second-to-last week of significant regular season college action and we’ve already seen a lot of fun-to-watch rivalry games and we have more this Saturday. Lets take a look at two of the better ones.

Clemson at South Carolina (Noon ESPN)

Clemson has one of their better teams in a few years and South Carolina is no push-over either. So this should be a good game. Its been intense in recent years, including one of the worst fights ever seen on a football field a few years back. Lets hope the action is good but clean and a close game is played.

Clemson RB C.J. Spiller (#28):

cj-spiller-clemsonSpiller has had a fantastic year for Clemson. He is a 5’11” 195 breakaway threat RB who does everything well. While he hasn’t broken 1,000 yards rushing, he does have nearly 900 and averages 5.2 per carry. But its his versatility, as witnessed by his 421 yards receiving at a clip of 14.5 per catch and his electrifying kick returns in which he is averaging over 33 yards per kick return with 3 touchdowns and nearly 30 yards per punt return with a touchdown, that has made him a legitimate Heisman Trophy Award candidate. A native of Florida, Spiller’s nickname is “Lightning” due to his speed. He is so fast, he has recorded a 40 yard dash time as quick as 4.28. But his speed is also matched by his shiftiness and toughness. For the Patriots, Spiller would be a excellent pick as he is versatile and can do so much including fill Kevin Faulk’s spot given that Faulk is a free agent after this year and getting on in years in any event. Spiller is likely a late first round choice but in many ways has potential to do many of the same things Chris Johnson does for the Titans.

Clemson WR Jacoby Ford (#6):

Ford is another blazer featured in the Tigers offense who once ran an other-worldy 4.126/40. Like Spiller, Ford is also from Florida but played for Fork Union Academy in Virginia which has produced 87 NFL draft picks and 2 Heisman Trophy winners. Ford has been called the fastest player in Fork Union history. Ford this year has caught 45 balls for over 650 yards and 5 touchdowns. Like Spiller, Ford is a premium kick returner and has a punt returned for a touchdown this year. He has also carried the ball 14 times for an average of 8.8 yards per carry and 2 touchdowns. In April’s draft, this undoubtedly will be one of the highest picked receivers and a sure fire first round pick. He has average size, but is not afraid to catch the ball in traffic and despite his speed he is definitely a football player, not just a sprinter. With his talent, production and all around solid play, he’d fit easily into the Patriots offense and be a dynamic threat next year with Randy Moss and Wes Welker that would be very, very difficult for opponents to match up with should the Patriots consider that possibility in the first round.

South Carolina LB Eric Norwood (#40):

A real fun playmaking linebacker to watch on defense for the Gamecocks. Norwood holds the South Carolina all-time record in sacks, which is remarkable because he spends a significant amount of time in coverage as well. This year, Norwood has done it all with 66 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 2 INTs, 5 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 3 blocked kicks. Talk about making plays! Norwood has good size at 6’1″ 252 and would fit into the Patriots defense so long as he was willing to make plays within the confines of sticking strictly to his assignment and not free lancing. He is allowed quite a bit of freedom in the Gamecocks defense, so that may be some adjustment for him but he seems to have the temperment to do so. Some have compared Norwood to the Steelers LaMarr Woodley, which would be a great fit for the Patriots defense. He isn’t overly fast and not great in coverage, but Norwood is stout against the run, physical, smart, tough and knows how to created havoc with booming hits. He should be a first round pick.

South Carolina DE Nathan Pepper (#95):

A 6’1 300 lb. defensive tackle for the Gamecocks, Pepper could slide outside in a 3-4 defense like the Patriots. Had a serious knee injury in 2007. Not a great pass rusher, Pepper has been good against the run this year and has chipped in 2 sacks from the inside. Pepper has called last year’s loss by South Carolina “embarrassing” and is looking forward to ending his home career with a big win and a good performance. Pepper is sort of a tweener as a defensive lineman because he is a bit small for inside, but a bit slow for the outside. But he is a leader, strong, plays hard and can certainly play in the NFL. As long as questions about his knee are satisfactorily answered, look for him to be a late round pick.

UCLA AT USC (10:00 PM EST Fox Sports Networks)

This should be a very good matchup with USC having one of their poorer teams in awhile and UCLA playing good football in recent weeks. The gap seems to have closed a bit between these two programs and UCLA has a chance to beat USC for the first time since 2006 and only the second time in over 10 years.

UCLA TE Ryan Moya (#15):

The Patriots certainly have had no trouble in recent years adding players from UCLA with Matthew Slater added this year and safety Brett Lockett as well as practice squad linebacker Bruce Davis added this year. Moya is another Bruin the Patriots may consider with possible off-season needs at tight end arising. He has been one of a pair of possible NFL caliber tight ends UCLA has, along with Logan Paulsen. Moya has 17 catches for 182 yards this season and 77 for his career. At 6’3″ 243, he isn’t a great inline player, but is good in motion and has solid hands and plays hard. He is a good route runner and has h-back potential as a motion blocker. More than likely, you’re looking at a late round choice but a solid guy who can play special teams and contribute in a few different areas, including catching a pass, and will get himself a shot on a regular season NFL roster at some point.

UCLA CB Alterraun Verner (#1):

Verner is one of the top cornerbacks in the country and a tremendous NFL prospect. As a Junior he led the country with 20 passes defended and was a first team All Pac-10 selection. Is a semi-finalist this year for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best college defensive back. Here is a clip of a 89 yard INT return Verner made for a touchdown against Arizona during his career. During his time at UCLA, Verner has become a favorite of everyone associated with the football program due to his outstanding on-field play but also leadership off it and commitment to academics and high character as well. Came into the season with 8 career INTs, including 3 he returned for touchdowns despite most opponents attempting to avoid him altogether. This year he has added 4 more INTs and 1 more returned for a TD. Even at his young age, enjoys speaking to young football players about the importance of school and not dropping out. Has average size, but good speed and is not afraid to stick his nose in on runs as he has often ranked high on the UCLA defensive stats for tackles due to his willingness to play the run. A captain this year for the Bruins. Verner seems to be everything the Patriots would look for in a cornerback and although they have added a few other young ones in recent years, if they are looking for another Verner would seem a logical choice. He is likely no worse than a 2nd round choice and should be a very productive NFL player.

USC G Jeff Byers (#53):

Byers has started three years at left guard for the Trojans and can also play some center too. Has been a good player, but has had a lot of injuries during his time at USC including back and hip problems and multiple surgeries. Was a third team All-American as a junior when he started every game. Byers is a bit undersized at 290 lbs., but can play in space as the Patriots like and is a hardworking, smart, tough guy. Coach Pete Carroll says about Byers: “We like his athleticism, his intensity and the intangibles that he brings. His downfield blocking sets the tone for the style of play that we like. He flies to his blocks better than anyone we’ve ever had, making use of his legs and his guts to finish plays. He creates such an attitude about the way we play.” Sounds exactly like a Patriots player and he’ll likely be a mid to late round pick.

Patriots Buffet Table – Bonus New Orleans Edition

by Patriots Daily Kitchen Staff

Game eleven and the Patriots are playing their sixth undefeated team of the season. This is a big game for the Pats as playoff seeding goes, as the Bengals and Chargers are both facing lightweights.

On top of that it’s a Monday night game, so despite the game being in New Orleans go fire up your grill. Do you really want to watch the idiotic ESPN pregame show – No, no you don’t. Use that time more fruitfully.

What to eat?

blackened-catfishThis week on the Buffet Table we’re going with a New Orleans specialty – Blackened fish. This dish was invented by Chef Paul Prudhomme, and originally used a trash fish, redfish. Blackened Redfish became so popular that the former unwanted redfish approached extinction within a decade.

It’s unlikely that you’ll find redfish in New England, but there are plenty of substitutes. On the Buffet Table we prefer swordfish, it’s more of a steak type fish and stands up to direct grilling better than many fish that have to be filleted. Catfish also works very well, and is certainly more fitting to New Orleans than swordfish would be.

New Orleans style Blackened fish (serves 4)

Blackening seasoning – there are also many commercial varieties available
1 tbs sea salt
1 tbs ground black pepper
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tbs onion powder
1 tbs oregano
1 tbs thyme
1 tbs paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 stick butter, melted
2 pounds fish, divided into 4 equal portions

Mix all of the seasoning ingredients together. Blot the fish dry with paper towels, removing as much surface moisture as possible. Brush the fish with the melted butter, and follow that by sprinkling the seasoning mixture evenly over both sides of the fish.

Heat your grill to high heat, at least 450 degrees. Cook for about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn and cook from about an other 4 to 6 minutes. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

These instructions are based on the fish being about as thick as your hand. If the fish is thicker, for example a swordfish steak could be much thicker, the cooking time will increase to usually about 6-8 minutes per side.

However you will have to watch and go by the fish flaking and not a set cooking time.

What to drink?

The Patriots won’t be playing New Orleans for another four years, so instead of highlighting just one beer from New Orleans, we’ll cover all of the beers from Louisiana that we can buy in New England. This consists of some beers from Abita Brewing. Dixie Brewing Company used to distribute their Dixie Lager and Dixie Blackened Voodoo, however they still have not recovered from Hurricane Katrina. They only brew for the local market under contract at other breweries.

Abita makes about a dozen beers. Three are distributed in New England in six pack form. Abita also ships a mixed twelve pack to New England, it has 2 each of 6 different beers.

First the beers you can find in six packs:

Abita Turbodog is a 5.6% ABV brown ale in the American Brown Ale style. An excellent drinking beer, and the Buffet Table pick as their best. It’s toffee, chocolate and roast flavors will go very well with the blackened fish.

Abita Purple Haze is a fruit beer. A 4.2% Raspberry Wheat. If you like fruited wheat beers then try this one out. Unlike some breweries that use artificial flavors, Abita adds actual raspberry puree after filtration. Because the yeast has been filtered out, the sugars in the raspberries will not ferment out. This leaves the beer with a sweeter, fuller taste.

Last but not least is Abita Jockamo IPA. It’s a pretty good American style IPA 6.5% ABV and just hoppy enough for the style. It’s a little raw, and not as polished as many of the IPAs from New England breweries.

You’ll find those three in the mix pack as well. Abita also includes:

Abita Amber – listed as a Munich Lager, a good beer that isn’t easily definable. It’s a bit too dark and robust to fit in the Munich Helles style. On the other hand it’s on the lighter side for Marzen (commonly called octoberfest) style beers. Stylistic accuracy doesn’t affect how a beer drinks, and this one is a winner. This was Abita’s first beer. At only 4.5% ABV you can drink plenty of these without trouble.

Abita Restoration Pale Ale, an American Pale Ale. Unlike many breweries where there is sort of a little brother/big brother similarity between the pale and and the IPA. Abita puts out 2 fairly different beers with the Jockamo IPA and Restoration Pale Ale. 5.0% ABV and only 20 IBU, Restoration is an easy drinking pale ale, closer in style to an English Pale Ale but still made with American hops.

The sixth beer in the pack changes with the seasons.

I’ve seen packs with Abita Satsuma Harvest Wit. This beer is in the Belgian White Ale style, think Hoegaarden or Blue Moon. It’s a spiced wheat beer at 5.1% ABV. Wit beers always use citrus zest, and this one uses the Satsuma. Satsuma is similar to a Mandarin Orange.

You may also see packs where the sixth beer is: Abita Christmas Ale. Always a dark ale, the recipe and style changes from year to year. Usually it is more along the lines of an Amber Ale than the heavier Winter Warmer.

Patriots All Access – MNF Edition

Patriots All Access airs tonight, Friday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. on WBZ-TV in Boston and available immediately afterward on Patriots.com

This week’s edition looks back at the win over Rex Ryan and the New York Jets, and ahead to Monday night’s HUGE confrontation with the undefeated New Orleans Saints on ESPN. Here are a few things to look for on tonight’s show:

  • Sights and sounds from the Patriots’ locker room following Sunday’s victory over the New York Jets
  • Steve Burton goes one-on-one with AFC Defensive Player of the Week Leigh Bodden following his three interception effort against the Jets
  • Scott Zolak gets Coach Belichick’s take on the undefeated Saints in advance on Monday night’s game
  • Coach Belichick uses The Belestrator to break down the Saints’ many weapons
  • Zolak gathers a group of Patriots defensive backs for a friendly game of pool
  • Zolak and Christian Fauria break down Drew Brees-to-Jeremy Shockey in the TURF (Teaching You Real Football) segment
  • Insight and analysis from ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss and Patriots Football Weekly’s Paul Perillo
  • Patriots All Access reveals the fifth most memorable moment in franchise history

Around The League – Week 11

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff

There seem to be some strange doings in the coaching ranks across the league lately. Starting with Bill Belichick’s fourth-and-2 gaffe a couple weeks ago in Indianapolis, several instances of coaches overthinking things, mismanaging the clock or timeouts or challenges, or just plain not being able to get out of their own way have cropped up, often affecting the outcome of certain games. Sure, the players are the ones who need to make the plays. But when the coaches don’t put them in the best situations to do so, it usually spells trouble.

Two weeks ago, the same Sunday as the Pats collapse in Indy, Dallas was in Green Bay, trailing 7-0 early in the fourth quarter with first and goal at the one. Despite having Marion Barber – perhaps the league’s best power back – in their backfield, the Cowboys called for a pass on this play. Of course, it was intercepted in the end zone, the Packers quickly embarked on an 80-yard scoring march and ultimately won the game, 17-7. The decision made no sense; needing points, from one yard out and with plenty of time remaining, the last thing the Cowboys should have done was try to get cute. Running Barber, or even quarterback Tony Romo at least once is the call. You would have thought that the failure of that decision would have made an impression on coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

But a week later, with a fourth-and-one near midfield in the third quarter of a game against the Redskins that they were trailing 6-0, another pass play was called. The result was another interception. Dallas wound up gritting out a 7-6 win over Washington in that game, but had they lost again, it’s hard to imagine Garrett not being lambasted for the call, with Phillips not far behind. What’s the point of messing around? In both situations, the Cowboys were at an advantage – against the Packers because of the field position, down and distance, and against the Redskins because of their superior talent up front yet they made it more difficult for themselves by outthinking the circumstances. Dallas is in a dogfight for their division and potentially the playoffs. Seasons can come down to a handful of plays. It’s odd that such a risk was taken, and twice for that matter. Two years ago Garrett was the hottest head coaching candidate out there. Now, after he and the rest of the Cowboys coaching staff are fired after the year unless they win the Super Bowl (which they will not), he’ll be lucky to get another shot right away as a coordinator.

Last week in Baltimore, the Ravens perfected the art of unimaginative offensive thinking as they failed to score a single touchdown in seven red zone trips against the Colts, eventually losing, 17-15. When the field got smaller, the Baltimore play calling consisted of toss to Ray Rice, screen/dump-off to Ray Rice or outside throw to Derrick Mason. Granted, Rice and Mason are Baltimore’s two top weapons on offense, but still, this stinks of “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” The problem was, the Colts were never fooled. They were ready for the Ravens’ lack of imagination (from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who has mostly done wonders with the Baltimore O the past two years) and made one stop short of paydirt after another. Add to that head coach John Harbaugh’s blowing of his final two timeouts near the two-minute warning, one to decide to make a bad challenge, the other after said bad challenge was predictably found incorrect and you have a sequence of events that may have cost the Ravens, now 5-5 and playing Pittsburgh this week, their season.

There’s more, only I don’t have enough space to rehash any of it (other than pointing out again that Belichick’s poor clock and timeout management down the stretch of the loss to the Colts is what really cost the Pats that game, far more than fourth-and-2). So be on the lookout this week and beyond. Hopefully your favorite team’s coach won’t make a decision anyone will regret.

This Week’s Five Best Teams

1. New Orleans: Just when some folks may have, ahem, er, surmised they might be slipping, or even look ahead of Tampa Bay toward this week’s Monday Night Showdown with the Patriots, Drew Brees and company shredded the Bucs, 38-7. Now, I’m ready to say that if they win on Monday, 16-0 is a legitimate possibility.

2. Indianapolis: Another super tight squeeze for the Colts, barely holding on for a 17-15 win in Baltimore in which the Ravens wasted those seven red zone trips (five field goals, one miss, one late INT). No matter how poorly they play, these guys always seem to stay calm enough to come through when it matters.

3. Minnesota: More cake for the Minnesota Favres, a 35-9 rout of the Seahawks that featured his royal holier-than-thouness completing 22-of-25 passes with four TDs and taking a seat before the end of the third quarter. It should probably be noted here that while he never played this well last year for the Jets, it was right around Thanksgiving that he started to suck. The rest of this season obviously remains to be seen.

4. New England: Good bounce back win for the Pats over the loud and lowly Jets. If they can conquer their second half/fourth quarter issues on Monday night in New Orleans, they will win and head up this list some more.

5. San Diego: The Chargers make their season debut here following a 32-3 wipeout of the once great, now enigmatic Broncos in Denver. It can’t hurt that older or injured stars like LaDanian Tomlinson, Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman are starting to come around. I’m just curious why it always takes these guys so long to get cooking.

This Week’s Five Worst Teams

1. Cleveland: How nice of the continually amazing Eric Mangini to choose not to praise the grit and effort and resolve of his lousy team after putting up 37 points (seemingly 37 more than they’d scored all year up to that point) in an excruciatingly near miss against Detroit and instead accuse the Lions of faking injuries to give themselves more time to come back and win in the end. I know he’s since apologized for this nonsense bit still, what an absolute schmuck.

2. Tampa Bay: Another coordinator fired? That makes two. Last time I checked, there were only two coordinators per team. No one left to 86 now except you, coach Morris.

3. St. Louis: The Rams keep fighting, taking advantage of crappy Matt Leinart filling in for Kurt Warner to make a solid run at the division leading Cardinals last week before blowing in the end. I like this team a lot more than their constant place on this list might suggest, but the bottom line is no matter how hard they try, they’re still 1-9.

4. Detroit: The Lions made that amazing comeback against the Browns and got some overwhelming evidence that Matthew Stafford can be their guy down the road. But let’s not forget, it was Cleveland they came back on, not anyone halfway decent. And they’re still the Lions, as they proved beyond the shadow of all doubt on Turkey Day against the Packers.

5. Oakland: The Raiders actually took advantage of a gift, wrapped up in a nice package by the Bengals. What would happen if their owner were to ever in a million years allow someone who doesn’t think it’s the original AFL in 1967 to make an important decision.

What’s Trendy

Brady Quinn, Browns: Try to forget for a moment that he plays for the worst team in the league and his coach is one of the worst in quite some time. He threw for 304 yards and completed 64 percent of his passes against the Lions, by far his best day as a pro. And his four TD passes were one more than he’d thrown in his entire NFL career combined. Too bad he gets Cincinnati, San Diego and Pittsburgh in his next three games. At least he’s now apparently dating gymnast Alicia Sacramone.

Chris Johnson, Titans: Sorry to be redundant with this guy, but after his 151 yards last Monday against Houston, he now has five straight games with at least 125 yards on the ground while averaging at least five yards per attempt. The last to do that? Only the great Jim Brown.

The Chiefs: Two straight wins for the first time in two years, the most recent an absolute shocker over the Steelers. Bravo to Todd Haley, Scott Pioli, Matt Cassel and all the rest down there in Kansas City. Small steps but steps all the same.

What’s Not

Kerry Rhodes, Jets: New York’s loudmouth safety has been unable to back up all of his ridiculous yapping and has been benched despite making as much if not more money than anyone else on the Jets defense. No word on whether clown coach Rex Ryan cried or felt disrespected when delivering Rhodes the bad news.

The Steelers Special Teams: Four kickoff returns for TDs allowed in their last five games. Taking it a step further, they’ve allowed a return TD (kickoff, punt, INT, fumble) in each of their last eight. That’s not going to get them back to the Super Bowl no matter if their quarterback is healthy or not.

The Falcons: 4-1 after their first five games, Atlanta is now 5-5 and with the Eagles and Saints coming up in the next three weeks, a second straight playoff berth may not be in the Cards. It seems Matt Ryan isn’t the only one enduring a sophomore slump, (hello, coach Mike Smith!).

And finally…

Once again, it must be noted that both the Saints and Colts are 10-0. It’s now the latest into a season that two teams have sported such marks since 1990, when both the Giants and 49ers hit Week 11 at 10-0 before each falling that week, the Giants to the Eagles and the Niners to the Bucs. The following week, they played each other on Monday Night Football from Candlestick Park in San Francisco with the Niners winning, 7-3. They would meet again on the same field several weeks later in the NFC Championship Game, the Giants winning 15.13 in an upset that wound up being Joe Montana’s final game as a Niner and Bill Parcells’ second to last game with the G-men (the final one was their Super Bowl win over Buffalo a week later).

The Colts and Saints won’t meet this season unless its in the Super Bowl, which is a pretty decent bet. For the record, I think the Colts will handle the still-not-ready-for-the-big time Texans this week and that the Saints will drop a close, not terribly high-scoring (think like, 30-27 or something of the kind) contest to the Patriots, leaving just one unbeaten headed into Week 13.

Worry Wart – Game Eleven at Saints

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Two weeks ago, your New England football club traveled to a dome to play an undefeated team. That result at Indianapolis – a one-point loss as pleasant as road rash – makes Monday’s tilt at New Orleans look all the more intimidating.

Now hold on one minute, you say. The Saints have yet to play any teams of substance, you say. Well, I say they’re 10-0, and I point out that New England hasn’t exactly racked up the wins against elite teams, either.

Who dat?” indeed.

Some other less-than-fun thoughts as we wait for Monday:

A Worthless Two Quarters: The Patriots always try to get out to a fast start. While they’ve had success in doing so, their second-half offense has been pretty sad. A second-quarter laugher vs. the Jets got tense in the third. Ten points in the second half against the Colts didn’t cut it. Whatever the reason (running game, play-calling predictability), Monday’s visitors had better put some point on the board or they’ll survive about as well as your turkey did this past Thursday.

The Sky’s The Limited: The Pats named enough players as limited participants on Thursday to field an entire team. Ty Warren and Tully Banta-Cain are two players who come to mind who could give New England the best chance.

Personally, I’d have to sit out with “tryptophan-induced coma.”

More With Wes: Apparently, this “Wes Welker” character can catch the football. His receiving partner Randy Moss isn’t the worst, either. What will bring the Patriots to the next level (and help them beat undefeated dome teams) will be the emergence of a true third receiver. Is rookie Julian Edelman up to the task? Will Tom Brady start looking for Benjamin Watson more often? With heavy coverage on the big two, look for someone else to emerge (or at least get the chance to).

Full Frontal: What’s up with the offensive line? Will New England field a full set of five on Monday? Kudos to Dan Connolly and Mark LeVoir for stepping up, but we’d like to see Sebastian Vollmer continue to hold down the left tackle spot. If Matt Light comes back this week, Vollmer might take the right side, which would look awesome.

Wait a minute. That’s not a worry. Here…

Play It Again, Sammy: How will the (potential) return of Sammy Morris affect the running game? Will Laurence Maroney see it as a challenge and meet it, or take it as an insult and shrink back? New England needs to run the ball, if only to lengthen their time of possession and keep the ball away from a Saints offense so explosive it scares off M-80s.

Monday night. Tons of hype. Yet another “Game of the Year.”

I’ll try to remain calm.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

50th Anniversary Minute – the 1998 Patriots

By Brenden Rosenau, Patriots Daily Staff

1998 might not be all that memorable for Pats fans, but it was in fact historic. For the first time in franchise history the Patriots reached the postseason three straight years. That year they posted a 9-7 record and finished fourth in a stacked AFC East. It was the teams fourth playoff appearance in five years.

Robert Edwards #47

Once again there were plenty of headlines before the season started as the Border War intensified when Curtis Martin signed a “poison pill” contract as a restricted free agent with the Jets. The Patriots were compensated with two draft picks, a first and third, but the loss of Martin would sting for a long time.

The first round pick looked good at first when the Pats took Georgia’s Robert Edwards. Edwards nearly was able to duplicate the production of Martin by running for 1,115 yards and scoring all nine of N.E.’s rushing touchdowns. Tragically, Edwards blew out his knee before the Pro Bowl and was out of football for four years. The injury was so severe that there was a threat of amputation and a possibility Edwards might not be able to walk again.

On the field, New England was 6-5 when Drew Bledsoe broke his finger on the helmet of Miami Dolphin DT Shane Burton. Despite the injury Bledsoe led the Pats to a come-from-behind 26-23 win when he hit Shawn Jefferson for a 25-yard TD in the final 30 seconds. The following week Bledsoe hit Ben Coates on a 1-yard pass for a 25-21 win over Buffalo. With the dual comebacks Bledsoe became the first quarterback in NFL history to engineer to consecutive comebacks in the final 30 seconds.

However, in Week 16 Bledsoe took a seat and Scott Zolak took over. Zolak was able to pick up a win over San Francisco, but he was dreadful in a loss to the Jets. In the playoffs Zolak was at the helm and was just 21-44 for 190 yards and a pick as the Pats lost to Jacksonville 25-10. With the threat of Bledsoe nullified, the Jags loaded the box and held Edwards to just 28 yards on 17 carries.

LEADERS

  • Drew Bledsoe (14 games) 263-481 (8th NFL) 3633 yards (6th), 20 TD
  • Robert Edwards 291-1115, 9 TD (T-5th) , 35-331 3 TD 1446 yards from scrimmage (Only rushing TD’s, rookie), 12 total TD (T-8th)
  • Ben Coates 67-668, 6
  • Shawn Jefferson 34-771, 22.7 yard per catch (1st),
  • Terry Glenn 50-792, 3
  • Lawyer Milloy 120 tackles, 6 INT (T-6th)
  • Ty Law 9 INT (1st)
  • Henry Thomas 6.5 sacks
  • Chad Eaton 6 sacks
  • Adam Vinatieri 127 points (T-6th)

ALL PRO
Ty Law (CB)

PRO BOWL
Ben Coates (TE), Law, Lawyer Milloy (S)

ESPN MNF Crew Previews Saints/Patriots

Monday Night Football Commentators Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski Preview New England Patriots-New Orleans Saints Game

MNF40logoESPN’s Monday Night Football commentators Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski discuss the highly anticipated Monday Night Football game between Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (7-3) and Drew Brees and the undefeated New Orleans Saints (10-0) Monday, Nov. 30 on ESPN and ESPN HD (8:30 p.m. ET):

On quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees …
Gruden: “These two guys are CEOs – they understand everything that’s going on all the time, and the bigger the moment the better their performances. They are great talents and they are in great systems that accentuate their talents. They’ve been at it for a while and their supporting casts help a lot also.”

Jaws: “They both have a good supporting cast and they are both veteran guys in the same system for a number of years. There comes a point when your athletic talent meets your mental talent and I think they are both at the top of their games right now both physically and mentally. It’s not surprising that they are both having absolutely phenomenal years.

Tirico: “I was around both of these guys a little bit when I called their games in college. Even though they are at the top of their profession right now, people didn’t really think they were going to be the can’t miss guys like a Peyton Manning and No. 1 overall picks coming out. That’s what I enjoy about them. They have worked their way to this lofty status as two of the best in the NFL.”

On the similarities between Brady and Brees …
Gruden: “There are a lot of similarities above the neck. Both guys lead the civilized world in effort. They’re there before sunrise and they’re there after dark. They are tempo setters and leaders. They are both crunch time performers, but physically they are different. Tom is 6-4, 6-5, while Brees is six-feet tall and came up the hard way. The interesting thing about both of these guys is that they came into the league kind of obscure, and that has a lot to do with where they are today. Brady was a sixth round draft choice – really came out of nowhere and wasn’t the go-to-guy at Michigan. Brees was considered too short. People said his career was over when he left San Diego – nobody wanted him. Both guys use that as fuel to prove to everybody they made a grave error.”

On the potential keys to Monday night’s game …
Gruden: “The Saints defense is a lot different than it has been, and so is New England’s with the absence of guys like Seymour, Vrabel, Bruschi and Harrison out of the mix. You have a revamped secondary in New England and Bill Belichick knows that. They lost a lot of guys – big time, crunch time players – so they have adjusted their scheme to fit their personnel. They have some young guys playing in their secondary along with some veterans, and so do the Saints. The addition of Gregg Williams was really big. He has come in and totally changed the culture of the Saints defense with an aggressive, blitzing style, but they have some injuries too. Health is a problem for New Orleans. I think you have two great defensive coaches going after two great offenses.

Jaws: “They are clearly elite teams. Both have explosive players on offense, solid running games and I think it’s going to be a very high scoring game. It’s not very often that you look at a game and say it’s going to be in the 40s, but with these two offenses right now this one could be that kind of game. I also say that based on how both defenses are playing. New Orleans is banged up. They have a depleted secondary right now. You have got to believe that Tom is going to come out and spread the field and just try to bring the Saints’ fourth and fifth best corners on the field. That is not a good sign when you have Tom Brady coming in with a plethora of receivers and tight ends. On the other side, the Pats defense has been a little bit inconsistent this year. They are in a transition mode trying to find out who they are and playing younger players in the secondary, trying to break in a new defensive line and linebackers. They are not working in harmony like you are used to seeing the Patriots defense work. With Drew Brees’ ability to read coverage and get rid of the football, I expect him to have a big day as well. If you like quarterbacking and you like offense, you want to record this one. It could be one for the ages.”

Tirico: “The Patriots are so much different than what we saw week 1. That was an offense that wasn’t ready to hit the way they are hitting now. Their pass game was rusty. Tom was rusty. Tom’s confidence has built and his health has built. We forget that’s a pretty serious injury to come back from. And New Orleans now has the defense that is a perfect complement to its offense. … What I love about both teams is they have multiple guys who can beat you. To me, the team that wins the game is the one that comes up with the better defensive game plan because these offenses are going to score on everybody. Whose defense can come up with the game plan to try to take away what the other team does, and that’s a great chess match.”

On what has made the Saints so successful this year …
Gruden: “They’ve always been outstanding on offense but this year they are just more committed to the run and more balanced. They have two Pro Bowl guards – I don’t care what anybody says — and they can really get after you physically. Mike Bell is a punishing back, Pierre Thomas is a versatile back, and Reggie Bush is a magician, so they have three different kinds of backs. Shockey is back to total health which he hasn’t been since he was in New York, and Drew Brees is Drew Brees. They protect him, and they can run it and throw it, and that’s a problem for defenses. The big deal with the Saints has been their defense and their ability to run the ball in key situations – short yardage, goal line, protect the lead, run out the clock. They’re generating turnovers on defense. They’re gambling and they’re aggressive. They have really picked it up on that side of the ball. The Saints have everything you need to make a long run and have an unbelievable year.”

Jaws: “Offensively, they are playing well enough to get a lead early and force the defense into situations when the other team has to throw the football. By getting ahead, they force the other team to be one dimensional, which helps their defense out. They are also running the football a lot better. That’s the most overlooked aspect of the Saints right now, particularly in the second half. They are not only grinding games out, killing the clock on offense, but they are running the football even when they get behind like they did in the game against the Jets. They got back in the second half of that game by running the ball. That’s helping them. People will look at Brees and his numbers, but they are not a one dimensional team. The running game is also taking the pressure off Brees by avoiding those third and long situations.”

Tirico: “The Saints now have a defense that not only has the people but the style complements the offense. It’s an aggressive attacking blitzing defense, which means they may come up with a big play but even if they miss they are going to get the ball back in Drew Brees’ hands pretty quick.”

On the Patriots maintaining their consistency as one of the league’s elite teams …
Gruden: “Jerod Mayo is an up and coming star in the league. (Gary) Guyton has come out of nowhere to be a really good every down linebacker. It’s just a credit to Bill Belichick. They lost Scott Pioli in the front office, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Broncos, I don’t know how many people they’ve lost and they haven’t missed a beat. It starts at the top and we all know who’s at the top, and that’s Bill Belichick — and right next to him is Tom Brady.”

Jaws: “We all know the Belichick profile. It’s about team. He’s always able to fill in a gap when he does have a gap. Knowing Bill’s style and how he likes to manage his team, he sees where this team is going to be at the end of the season. A lot of teams are going week to week, saying win this game or that game, but Bill has a vision. He knows what this team should look like in December and going into the playoffs, and that’s why he’s always tinkering, moving guys in or out, putting guys inactive if they are not performing up to what his standard is. When you see that on the defensive side happening, you know he’s not happy yet. At the same time, he’s always had 15 or 16 starters and there’s been a rotation for the Patriots defense because Bill likes to put guys in a position that plays to their strengths. He’s always been good about rotating personnel into a game. You’re always going to get a turnover of players on the defensive side of the ball. Right now he’s still tweaking it, and, based on the number of players I see playing, he’s not quite there yet.”

On the similarities between coaches Belichick and Payton …
Gruden: “Anytime you coach a guy like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, you tend to be aggressive as a play caller. They just have tremendous confidence in their quarterback, and they should. These guys complete 70 percent of their passes, their NFL MVP candidates. Brees threw for 5,000 yards last season, and the other guy’s won three Super Bowls. They are aggressive play callers, but I don’t know if they would be that aggressive with just any other quarterback, but their history and their trust levels with these quarterbacks is special and in key situations they rely on them.”

Jaws: “We all know how well the Patriots have done this decade winning multiple championships and a lot of that has to do with Bob Kraft and their organization, that there’s the commitment to excellence and the commitment to winning. A lot of teams talk about it and say they are there to win, but not everyone really goes out there and does the job. Obviously, the Patriots have done this and what I’m seeing now in New Orleans over the last few years, I see an organization that’s committed with Tom Benson and Mickey Loomis, and the guy that has the keys and is driving the car is Sean Payton. They are now going out and making the moves necessary to be successful. You have to have that full-blown commitment to win and the Saints are getting it.”

On the importance of this particular game …
Gruden: “The magnitude of this game is huge. Bragging rights are important and all your peers are watching, and you know that. The Patriots don’t want anyone to go 16-0 but them. There’s going to be incentive for them to win this game. For the Saints, why wouldn’t you want to take out the New England Patriots on national TV to increase your credibility and maintain home field advantage? They are hard to beat in that dome and home field advantage for them in the NFC is huge. Even with Indianapolis having a commanding lead in the AFC, the Patriots would like to secure home field as well because of Gillette Stadium and Tom Brady. It’s hard for opposing teams to win there.

On whether Monday night’s Patriots-Saints game could be a potential Super Bowl preview …
Gruden: “Pick up a copy of the preseason ESPN Magazine. This is who I picked to be in the Super Bowl. I think it’s a reality. I like the continuity of the head coach and the quarterback, and in my opinion the battery of head coach and quarterback goes a long way to winning it all. You have that with both the Patriots and the Saints.”

On whether there will be a lingering effect on the Patriots as a result of the 4th and 2 against the Colts two weeks ago …

Jaws: “It’s situations like that that motivate their football team. It makes them a little more angry. They are a very tight football team and they play for each other. It’s not a team that’s very concerned about what happens outside its own building. They are concerned about each other. They saw what was happening – people questioning Bill Belichick’s move. I guarantee those players will rally around Belichick. They love playing for him because they know that gives them the best chance to win a championship.

“You can’t coach by the book. A lot of it’s got to be instinct, understanding your talent and your team. That’s why Bill is so good and why he’s been successful. He does the unconventional, unorthodox thing and that’s what makes him special.”

On the Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans …
Jaws (who played in the Superdome in his lone Super Bowl appearance as a player): “It’s spectacular. It’s one of the greatest places to play. I will never forget the re-opening of the dome three years ago against the Falcons. I was at the tunnel when the Saints came out onto the field. Literally as those guys were coming out, my ears were hurting from the noise. The players looked like they were three feet off the ground running onto the field. There was an adrenaline rush and an excitement that I have never felt before at a football game that I wasn’t playing in. It was remarkable. That place is so noisy and they have some of the greatest fans in the world.

“They have been through so much in that community and they have rallied behind the Saints. Whenever we go meet with Coach Payton, Drew Brees and others, they talk so much about community. They feel such an important part of that giving back. They really have become the backbone of that community. It’s always exciting to go there and cover a game and be part of the atmosphere, especially this season with an undefeated team. It’s going to be wild.”

Tirico: “That dome gets loud. It gets boisterous. It can be difficult to play in, but it’s also a thrilling atmosphere. A big game in the Superdome reminds me of the old big games at the Orange Bowl. There are certain stadiums that host a game and it just feels big, and this is one of them.

“Every time I go back to New Orleans, it’s impressed upon me how that team — and the marriage with the Saints and the city — is so unique and so different. They are New Orleans’ Saints because they belong to the city. It’s everywhere you go. People are very proud, very prideful, of anything that is New Orleans, and the Saints were the first opportunity to show that the city was open for business – it still had its same soul and character and culture to it. The players have also adopted what the city is all about – the city struggles, the strife and the pride. Because Sean Payton and Drew Brees have been at the front of that, it’s made a really big impact. It’s a special place.”

On the specialness of this Monday Night Football game …
Tirico: “To the players, that Monday night stage is special, whether it’s in front of peers or family, it’s the only game of the night. We have seen star players have big games on Monday night week after week and year after year. With these two star quarterbacks at the absolute top of their profession, this is one of those ideal Monday Night moments waiting to happen in the perfect venue.

“This game has every ingredient – the quarterbacks, the high-powered offenses, what’s on the line for both teams as they head to the postseason, that underlying thing of the Patriots are the team that went undefeated in a 16-game schedule, two coaches who came off the Parcells tree, star players all over the field. Usually Thanksgiving weekend is this 96-hour barrage of football. Well, the great part of this year is it all kind of builds up to a crescendo and the best is left for last with this matchup on Monday Night Football.”

Senior coordinating producer Jay Rothman: “It’s rare that you get heavy weight matchups of this caliber, two great offenses and two great quarterbacks, and there is no greater place that rocks like the superdome. The place will be electric and we look forward to capturing it all. It’s a big time battle between two great quarterbacks and we know all of America will be tuning in.”

-30-

50th Anniversary Minute – the 1997 Patriots

By Brendon Rosenau, Patriots Daily Staff

bill-parcellsMany of the memories of the 1997 New England Patriots focus on what happened before the season even started. Bill Parcells had left to take over as head man of the New York Jets and in his place stepped Pete Carroll. Of course, Carroll would have a tumultuous tenure with the team, but got things started off on the right foot as he guided the team to its second straight playoff appearance.

The Pats began the ‘97 season with four straight wins before the bye week and were 5-1 six games in. In the midst of the hot start was a 27-24 OT win over the Jets in the first installment of the Border War. Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal after the Pats had blocked a potential winner from John Hall in regulation. Curtis Martin led the N.E. offense with 199 yards on the ground. Martin would go on to gain 1160 yards in 1997, his third 1,000 yard season with the Pats, in what was ultimately his last year in a N.E. uniform.

After the quick start N.E. found itself in a struggle and was 6-5 after a loss to a Tampa Bay team that was bound for its first playoff appearance since 1982. Facing the possibility of missing the playoffs the Patriots responded with three straight wins by a total of 12 points over playoff-bound Miami, Indy and playoff-bound Jacksonville.

After a 24-21 loss to the Steelers knocking them down to 9-6, N.E. clinched the AFC East with a 14-12 Monday night nail bitter over Miami in South Beach. New England’s offense was practically non-existent in the game (207 yards), but the Pats defense was more than up to the challenge holding Miami’s Karim Abdul-Jabbar (NFL high 15 rushing TD) out of the end zone and to just 33 yards. Lawyer Milloy also had a pick as the Patriots clinched the AFC East title. New England’s reward was a third meeting with the Dolphins. Not only was Miami looking for revenge, but the Pats were looking to become just the sixth team in NFL history to beat the same team three times in one year. Once again the defense stepped to the forefront as it picked off Dan Marino twice and sacked him four times. Chris Slade’s INT led to a 24-yard Troy Brown touchdown and a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.

In the third, Todd Collins picked Marino at the Dolphin 40 and took the ball to the house for a 14-0 lead. The final score was 17-7 and New England was set for another playoff tilt with Pittsburgh. Like the prior year, Drew Bledsoe tried to find Terry Glenn early in the game, but this time the ball was picked off at the 5. Pittsburgh then drove 62 yards with Kordell Stewart scoring the games only touchdown on a 40-yard run. New England got two Vinatieri field goals, but never got closer than the Steelers 13. They also turned the ball over four times. With 1:44 to go in the game Bledsoe fumbled when he was sacked by a Steelers rookie by the name of Mike Vrabel.

LEADERS

  • Drew Bledsoe 314 completions (3rd NFL), 522 attempts (2nd), 3706 yards (4th), 28 TD (3rd)
  • Curtis Martin 1160 yards (8th), 4 TD; 41-296
  • Ben Coates 66-737, 8 TD (T-9th)
  • Shawn Jefferson 54-841-2
  • Troy Brown 41-607-6
  • Ted Johnson 127 tackles
  • Chris Slade 9 sacks
  • Willie Clay 6 INT (T-5th)
  • Adam Vinatieri 115 points (10th)

ALL PRO
Chris Slade (LLB), Larry Whigham (Special Teams)

PRO BOWL
Drew Bledsoe (QB), Ben Coates (TE), Bruce Armstrong (LT), Slade, Whigham

Editor’s Note: We’d like to congratulate Brendon and his wife on the birth of their first child,  a daughter, last week.  Mother and daughter (and Dad) are doing fine.