Patriots-Bengals through stats-based lens

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Previewing Sunday night's New England Patriots-Cincinnati Bengals matchup through a stats-based lens (via ESPN's Stats & Information):

31-game regular-season home streak on the line. The Patriots have won 31 consecutive regular-season home games against AFC opponents since losing to the Steelers in Week 13 of the 2008 season. That’s the longest home win streak in conference games since the 1970 merger. Tom Brady has won 39 straight regular-season home starts vs. AFC teams since a loss to the Jets in Week 10 of the 2006 season.

Unfamiliar territory, Part I -- falling below .500. The Patriots are looking to avoid falling under .500 after the first five games of season for the third time under Bill Belichick. The last time it happened was in 2001 when they were 2-3, but rallied to go 11-5 and went on to win the Super Bowl.

Unfamiliar territory, Part II -- home underdog. As of now, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has Cincinnati listed as a 1-point favorite in New England. If Cincinnati remains the favorite, it would mark just the third time since 2003 that New England is an underdog at home. The other games New England was a home 'dog came against Peyton Manning. New England was a 4.5-point underdog to Indianapolis in 2005 (lost 40-21) and a 1-point underdog to Denver in 2013 (won 34-31).

Brady should hit 50,000 passing yards. Tom Brady needs 60 passing yards for 50,000 in his career, which would make him the sixth QB to reach the mark in NFL history. Chicago's Jay Cutler and Atlanta's Matt Ryan can each reach 25,000 yards for their careers with 57 and 265 yards each respectively.

Brady's sinking completion percentage. Brady’s 59.1 completion percentage ranks 29th among 36 qualified quarterbacks. Brady is missing targets (over or underthrown passes) at a much higher rate than in previous seasons (26 percent this year, the third-highest percentage in the league). Brady's missed target percentage (from 2010-present): 13, 21, 20, 21, 26.

Bengals among the unbeaten teams. The Bengals and the Cardinals are the remaining unbeaten teams at 3-0. Since the NFL went to four divisions in 2002, this is fourth time there’s been two or fewer unbeaten teams after four weeks. If the Bengals and Cardinals (at Denver) both lose, this would be the third time in the Super Bowl era where the last unbeaten team was 3-0 at best (2010, 1970 were other).

Ball comes out quick with Dalton. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has the shortest average time before pass rate this season at 2.06 seconds and is second to Peyton Manning in average time in the pocket at 2.01 seconds (Manning is at 1.99).

Bengals have led the pack. The Bengals have only played two snaps this season when trailing in a game. That is easily the lowest total in the NFL, behind Seattle (39), San Diego (45) and Detroit (50).

Bengals had stopped Brady's TD streak. The last time these teams faced off in Week 5 last season, the Bengals won 13-6 as they snapped Brady's streak of 52 straight regular-season games with a Pass TD.

Weekly Patriots chat at 11 a.m.

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
Every Thursday on, there is a Patriots chat. Today's chat is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET, and questions can be asked in advance.

Catch up then.

Ebner and Slater lead Pats' special teams

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On a short week, following up on the New England Patriots' 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs with a look at players appearing on multiple units within the "Big Four" -- kickoff return, punt return, kickoff coverage and punt coverage -- as it helps highlight player value on the 46-man game-day roster:

Four units
RB Brandon Bolden
S Nate Ebner
S Don Jones
WR Matthew Slater
LB Chris White
S Tavon Wilson

Three units
DE Michael Buchanan
LB Deontae Skinner

Two units
S Patrick Chung

Ebner and Slater lead the team with six special teams tackles apiece.

ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss takes a look back at New England's 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, previews Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals and sits down with Devin McCourty.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon of "PTI" debate whether it is time for Bill Belichick to give up his GM duties and stick to coaching the Patriots.

Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower limited

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots starting right defensive end Chandler Jones injured his right shoulder in Monday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and was limited in Wednesday's practice.

Jones sustained the injury in the second quarter and missed four plays before returning to the game and being replaced for the final three series.

The shoulder could have been a factor that contributed to some of Jones' struggles setting the edge in the running game, as the Chiefs ran to his side with success.

Jones' injury isn't the only one to a key player in the Patriots' front-seven, as linebacker Dont'a Hightower's left injury limited him in practice. Hightower injured the knee on Knile Davis' 16-yard run in the third quarter.

Elsewhere, rookie offensive lineman Cameron Fleming, who made his first career NFL start at right guard Monday, has a finger injury that knocked him out of practice. The injury is not expected to keep Fleming out of action.

Also, core special teamer Nate Ebner missed practice with a finger injury, while linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh) and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder) remained limited. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was a full participant at practice for the first time this year.


John Clayton joins Keith Olbermann to discuss the demise of Tom Brady, the rise of Andrew Luck, and why the Ravens should be thanking the Panthers for letting Steve Smith go.

Patriots' groupings: Three WR package

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
Catching up on some postgame staples on a short week, the following were the positional groupings utilized by the New England Patriots in their 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday:

3 WR/1 TE/1 RB --22 of 50
2 WR/2 TE/1 RB -- 14 of 50
2 WR/1 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 7 of 50
3 WR/2 RB -- 5 of 50
1 WR/2 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 2 of 50

It's hard to imagine the Patriots expected to be in three-wides as often as they were, in part because they only dressed three pure receivers. Score considerations in the second half skewed the overall numbers (14 snaps in 3-WRs over the final four drives).

The general feeling about the Patriots' intentions is that they hoped to use running backs more in the passing game, with an abundance of screens, shovel passes and draw plays to use the Chiefs' aggressiveness against them (quarterback Tom Brady was in the shotgun 17 of 23 times in the first half). But the plan, which included five snaps in which running backs Shane Vereen and James White were on the field together, never came to life for a variety of reasons.

Overall, this was supposed to be a Vereen-type game, but it didn't happen for Vereen.

ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss discusses the need for the Patriots' defense to regain its intensity against the Bengals on Sunday night.

Hernandez judge withholds ruling

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- A judge has finished hearing testimony in a bid by former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez's lawyers to have evidence from his cellphone tossed, but she issued no immediate ruling.

Prosecutors say Hernandez's legal team turned the phone over without objection after a warrant was issued. An assistant district attorney said Wednesday afternoon in Fall River Superior Court that the defense is having a "classic case of buyer's remorse."

The defense claims consent doesn't matter because the warrant didn't authorize the phone's seizure the way it took place.

One of Hernandez's lawyers testified that a colleague who reviewed the warrant didn't have extensive experience in criminal matters and that he himself didn't review the document until later.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in the 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd of Boston.

(Read full post)

CB Brandon Browner, WR Brian Tyms practice after suspensions end

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Because the Patriots played on Monday night, this week is a shortened week and things are running a bit differently at Gillette Stadium.

With Wednesday being the first practice of the week, the Patriots held a walk-through instead of a normal practice.

The conditions outside were rainy with the outdoor practice fields drenched, so the team opted to hold practice inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse, the team's indoor practice facility.

Cornerback Brandon Browner and wide receiver Brian Tyms, who returned to the team this week after each served a four-game suspension, were present at practice and wearing their jerseys.

The Patriots will release a practice report after 6 p.m. on Wednesday. The report comes out a little later because the Patriots' opponent this week, the Cincinnati Bengals, are practicing from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Urgency the word of day for Patriots

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The word of the day among New England Patriots players is "urgency."

"There is a sense of urgency and there needs to be," special teams captain Matthew Slater said as the Patriots returned to work two days after their 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. "We're in a fight and it's going to be a fight the rest of the season, as it is every year. We can't just assume that we're going to be the Patriots, show up, and have success. It doesn't work that way. Every one of us needs to heighten our sense of urgency, every one of us needs to heighten our attention to detail in order for us to have the results we want to have."

Slater later added, "I feel confident we're a resilient group and will be able to bounce back. Time will tell. It's easy to sit here and talk about it, but hopefully we go out and do something about it."

The process started Wednesday as players went through meetings and began preparations for Sunday night's home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"Our response starts now in how we prepare, how we get ready," said left tackle Nate Solder, who added that the urgency among players is "extremely high, as high as it can get."

Players also expressed confidence that the players in the locker room are capable of turning things around.

"I think we'll be ready," safety Devin McCourty said. "We have enough of the same guys that were here last year … I think guys are going to see this as a chance to fight, and get better and claw our way out of a situation where most people have turned their backs and saying ‘we're not good.' Now it's about playing for each other."

Added Slater, "I know everybody is ready to hit the panic button, but there's a lot of football to be played. I'm very excited and interested to see how we're going to respond. I truly believe that we'll respond with a lot of mental toughness and competitiveness. We have a lot of competitive guys on this team. No one backs down from a challenge. We're in an unfamiliar spot and we have to do something about it."

Belichick stiff-arms attempts to talk Brady

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If you are curious about how the New England Patriots are dealing with coming off one of the worst losses in recent memory, head coach Bill Belichick has a simple answer for you: "We are on to Cincinnati."

Questions are surfacing about the talent the team has around Tom Brady along the offensive line and at the skill positions, specifically wide receiver.

Belichick had an exchange with two reporters about the Patriots' long period of success and the talent around Brady:

Reporter: "Coach [Belichick], your team has been successful for so long, how difficult is it to react to the adversity of Monday night -- to get back on track so quickly -- because from a conditioning standpoint, this team, this organization hasn't had these sorts of issues in the past?"

Belichick: "We are on to Cincinnati."

Reporter: "Bill you mentioned Tom's age at the draft ..."

Belichick: "We are on to Cincinnati."

Reporter: "Do you think having a 37-year-old ..."

Belichick: "We are on to Cincinnati. There's nothing about the past, nothing about the future. Right now we are preparing for Cincinnati."

Reporter: "Do you feel that the talent you have here is good enough?"

Belichick: "We are getting ready for Cincinnati."

Reporter: "I'm just asking do you think you have done enough to help Tom Brady?

Belichick: "We are getting ready for Cincinnati. That's what we are doing."

Reporter: "So as you get ready for Cincinnati, does Tom Brady have the talent and protection around him to be on to Cincinnati and handle that challenge?"

Belichick: "We are going to gameplan to do the best we can to be ready to go Sunday night, same as we always do. Nothing has changed."
ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss talks about the difference the schedule could play this week as the Patriots come off a short week and the Bengals come off their bye week heading into Sunday night’s matchup.