Cold Hard Facts

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27


Tedy Bruschi gives his opinion on Robert Griffin III's benching, the key for the Broncos in Kansas City and the first time for Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers to face off as starters.

Patriots release safety Don Jones

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a move that registers as a surprise, the New England Patriots waived safety Don Jones -- one of their best special teams players -- on Thursday.

Jones has played in nine games this season, with all of his snaps coming on special teams. Coaches credited him with eight special-teams tackles, which was the third-highest total on the team. A second-year player out of Arkansas State, Jones regularly plays on the punt coverage team (gunner), punt return (against the gunner) and kickoff coverage teams.

Given that type of production, and his valued role on the team, it makes one wonder why the Patriots would make such a move.

We've put out a few feelers, but as we attempt to gather more intelligence, here are a few off-the-cuff thoughts:

1. Roster management: The Patriots could still have plans for Jones (if he clears waivers) but might feel they need to create an opening on the roster for another position (e.g. long snapper) this week. By making the move Thursday, perhaps the Patriots feel there's a better chance Jones would clear waivers and they could bring him back once their short-term need at another spot is addressed.

2. Not about football? A move like this, out of the blue, makes one wonder if it wasn't about football-specific reasons.

3. Not related to Siliga: One thought is that perhaps the Patriots are clearing a spot for the return of defensive tackle Sealver Siliga from the short-term injured reserve list. But since Siliga has yet to participate in a regular practice with the team, that seems highly unlikely.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a sign that he is making progress in his return from a hip injury sustained Oct. 16, defensive end Chandler Jones was a limited participant in practice for the second straight day. But the difference between Thursday and Wednesday is that the Patriots held a more traditional practice. On Wednesday, it was a walkthrough (no pads and more mental work than physical work).

Elsewhere on the injury report, core special teamer Chris White was a new addition with an ankle injury. He was limited in practice, as he presumably sustained the injury during Thursday's session.

There were no other changes on the Patriots' injury report from Wednesday, while the Packers had one notable change -- rookie receiver Davante Adams was limited with a heel injury. Adams had practiced fully on Wednesday.

'A lot of good snaps' from DT Alan Branch

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick’s weekly breakdown of plays following a New England Patriots victory, on, highlighted strong work on offense, defense and special teams -- a fitting recap, because last Sunday’s win against the Lions was a complete-team effort.

Alan Branch showing up: A sack in the first quarter (7:27) showed how the combination of good coverage married up with good rush to produce the desired result. This is generally one of Belichick’s preferred plays to show in these breakdowns, and one thing he said confirmed what was pointed out in film review: defensive tackle Alan Branch played a solid game. "Gave us a lot of good snaps," Belichick said as he pointed out Branch's strong rush inside.

Defending the pick route in red zone: The coaches film showed a nice overhead view of the third-down stop in which tight end Joseph Fauria couldn’t hang on to an end-zone pass with safety Patrick Chung in coverage. There were pick routes on both sides, with the Patriots doubling receiver Calvin Johnson inside. A key on the play was linebacker Jamie Collins flattening out running back Theo Riddick so Chung could play through the pick and defend Fauria. At the end of the play, Belichick credited Chung with playing Fauria’s hands and knocking the ball out.

Amendola’s patience pays off: On Danny Amendola's 81-yard kickoff return, Belichick highlighted the blocking ("seal the inside") and how the wedge was a "three-for-three" matchup. Meanwhile, receiver Brandon LaFell, the fullback on the kickoff return team, blocked the safety. The rest was up to Amendola. "I thought he showed a lot of patience on that," Belichick said. "You can see what a great job Amendola does ... the key to the play is Amendola starting over [to his right] to draw the coverage outside as if he’s going to run to the sideline here. Then Danny does an excellent job right here, setting it up and cutting it back."

Power running on goal line: Belichick pointed out a crucial pull from right guard Ryan Wendell on LeGarrette Blount's first touchdown run -- creating a third double-team block across the front -- and then showed how Blount lowered his pads to overpower unblocked linebacker DeAndre Levy. And a little chuckle from Belichick on Blount's end-zone dance.

Edelman in the backfield: The concept of lining up a receiver in the offensive backfield showed up on the Patriots’ final drive of the second quarter (0:17), with receiver Julian Edelman and running back Shane Vereen on both sides of Tom Brady (who was in the shotgun). Belichick pointed out how that appeared to create some confusion for the coverage -- as Edelman and Vereen switch sides at the last moment -- opening up the middle for tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Police seek Hernandez sneakers

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. -- Authorities have returned to the home of ex-New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez seeking sneakers they believe were worn on the night of a 2013 killing he's charged in.

The Sun Chronicle reports state and local authorities went to Hernandez's North Attleborough home this week but seized no evidence.

The paper, citing court records, reports authorities wanted the Nikes to compare with sneaker prints at the industrial park where the bullet-riddled body of Odin Lloyd was found in June 2013. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder in Lloyd's killing.

The records say investigators preparing for trial recently noticed three pairs of men's shoes in video taken inside Hernandez's home. Police say Hernandez and two co-defendants were seen in home surveillance video wearing the sneakers.

(Read full post)

Patriots-Packers through a stats-based lens

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A look at Sunday's New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers game through a stats-based lens (via ESPN's Stats & Information):

1. Brady and Rodgers: QBR kings. This marks the first starting quarterback matchup of Tom Brady and the Patriots against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Since Week 4, Rodgers (91.2) and Brady (84.7) are first and second in Total QBR and both are 7-1 in that span.

2. Packers putting up big numbers at home. This will be a matchup of the top offenses, as the Patriots (32.5 avg.) and Packers (32.2 avg.) rank first and second in scoring this season. The Packers have scored 50-plus points in each of their last two home games, and are averaging an NFL-best 43.8 points per game at home this season. The Patriots have averaged 28.6 points per game on the road this season, third best in the NFL.

3. Teams take care of the ball. The Packers have committed a league-low eight turnovers this season while the Patriots have committed nine. Both Rodgers and Brady have been historically great protecting the ball. Rodgers' career 1.7 interception percentage is currently the best in NFL history, while Brady’s 2.0 percentage is second.

4. Patriots show bite as an underdog. New England is listed as underdogs for the fifth time this season. The Patriots have won each time by an average margin of 21.3 points.
  • vs. Bengals (plus-2.5) -- 43-17
  • at Bills (plus-1) -- 37-22
  • vs. Broncos (plus-3) -- 43-21
  • at Colts (plus-3) -- 42-20
5. Eight-game winning streak would match 2011. The Patriots have not won eight games in a row in a single season since 2011. That was also the last time the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl.

6. Brady not a frequent visitor to Lambeau Field. This is just Brady's second trip to Lambeau Field, with the first coming in 2006 when the Patriots recorded a 35-0 win. Brady is 2-1 in his career against the Packers. Brady lost his first start against them in 2002, throwing one touchdown and three interceptions. He has seven touchdowns and no interceptions against the Packers in his last two games against them.

7. TE stands for 'touchdown excellence.' The Patriots have scored a league-high 15 touchdowns by tight ends this season. The Packers have allowed only two touchdowns to tight ends this season, tied for second fewest in the NFL.

8. Blount and yards after contact. Running back LeGarrette Blount has averaged 2.9 yards per rush after initial contact this season, best in the NFL. The Packers have allowed an NFL-worst 2.0 yards per rush after contact this season. Meanwhile, Packers running back Eddie Lacy has been one of the NFL's best at yards after contact, averaging 2.32 yards.

9. Cornerbacks locking down on receivers. The Patriots rank second in completion percentage allowed to wide receivers this season and have been even better since Brandon Browner joined the lineup in Week 7. The Packers have an NFL-high 22 receiving touchdowns by wide receivers this season.

10. Hard to top Connolly's kickoff return. One of the key plays for the Patriots in their victory over the Packers in 2010 was a 71 yard kickoff return by offensive lineman Dan Connolly. The Patriots have had only three kickoff returns longer than Connolly’s since.

11. Tough to intercept Rodgers at home. Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception at home since Week 13 of the 2012 season. His 11 straight games and 322 consecutive passes without an interception at home are both NFL records, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

12. Protection has improved for Brady. The Patriots have done a better job of protecting Brady over the last seven games, which has led to more efficient passing.

Completion percentage
First 4 games: 59.1
Last 7 games: 67.9

Pressure percentage
First 4 games: 26.0
Last 7 games: 21.2

First 4 games: 9
Last 7 games: 5

Total QBR
First 4 games: 46.5
Last 7 games: 87.6


Tom Brady lauds Aaron Rodgers

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady arrived for his weekly news conference Wednesday wearing a gray sweatshirt without sleeves, giving it the look of a muscle shirt. Brady relayed that he took it from receiver Brandon LaFell.

"When you've got guns like this, you've got to show these things off," Brady cracked. "I've been working hard on these things."

Brady then touched on a number of topics, including facing Aaron Rodgers for the first time with both as starters. He laughed when informed that coach Bill Belichick said the similarity he sees between him and Rodgers is that they both wear No. 12.

"That's probably as close as we'll get right there," Brady said. "He's just phenomenal, a great player. I always love watching him play because he does things that a lot of guys in the league can't do; that nobody can really do except him. For a quarterback, I really know how hard it is to do that, especially on a consistent basis, and he's been as consistent as anybody who has ever played the position, so I've got a lot of respect for him."

One common link between the two is their lack of interceptions. Rodgers has just three this season, while Brady has six.

If a quarterback makes a mistake against the Packers, it usually ends up resulting in points.

"They have the highest percentage of scores after you turn the ball over than any team in the league. That's a big reason why they're getting ahead at home because they get ahead of you, you start to press, you turn it over, they convert into more touchdowns, and it just piles on," Brady said. "You've got to keep the game close and keep it competitive, and I think Aaron has done a great job in his career of not turning the ball over. He's got all the ability in the world."

A few other sound bites from Brady:

Conversations with Rodgers. "I've known Aaron for a long time. We always enjoy seeing each other, and that's what both of us love to do is talk football. I'm always trying to learn from him. There's a lot to talk about. I don't know if there are so many specifics other than I'm probably trying to get into his brain a little bit and he's trying to get into mine. I think there are a lot of things that they do offensively that are really good. Everyone does things differently on offense. Everyone's goal is to score points. You look at another team's style and how they do it and you just want to understand how they're doing it and see if you can learn something and maybe implement it into what your team does. They're pretty spectacular at what they do. They've got a great team, great offense. He is obviously one of the best players to ever play the position, so there is a lot to learn from."

Belichick teaching about the Packers history. "He's got such a great memory. I think he is always trying to educate us on different things. He's done that for a while. He just kind of gives some young players who are maybe new to the league [insight]. Coach is really a historian, too. He's been involved in NFL football for a long time. I think he really relishes these opportunities, whether it's the Raiders or the Bears or something like this against the Packers, a team that's been around for a long time with so many great teams and players and games over the years. He just gives some players some insight into what this team is all about."

Importance of TD-INT radio. "To score points, you need a lot of consistent effort over the course of the game. If you're throwing it or running it in, it's not a big difference in terms of the score at all, obviously. But turnovers limit your scoring. That's the problem with turnovers. You can't score if you're turning it over. It's like a punt. If you go out and you punt 12 times, you're not scoring points. That's not good. So, when you turn the ball over and throw interceptions, you're giving the other team more opportunities and your team less opportunities. Not that they're going to take advantage of it every single time, but the odds are they're going to take advantage of it more than they're not."

The NFL Live crew make their picks for New England at Green Bay.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – If you thought Bill Belichick's comparison of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers was deep, what until you hear what Mike McCarthy said Wednesday.

Expanding upon the New England Patriots coach's deadpan line from Wednesday morning that "they both wear number 12" before walking off, the Green Bay Packers coach offered something more.

"They're both from California," McCarthy said.

And with that, perhaps paying homage to Belichick and his sometimes brief news conferences, McCarthy's news conference was over.

To be fair, McCarthy did answer other questions with much lengthier responses and also prefaced his line by saying he believes questions about comparing players are difficult.

"Stay away from them," he said.

During his session with reporters on Wednesday, Rodgers was told of both coaches' remarks and then was asked if there were any other similarities?

"That's probably it right there," Rodgers said.

ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss looks ahead to when the Patriots could get defensive end Chandler Jones back on the field.

Patriots' injury report: Chandler Jones, eight others limited

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Defensive end Chandler Jones (hip) was a limited participant in the New England Patriots' walk-through practice on Wednesday.

This is the first time Jones has participated in a practice since injuring his hip during Week 7 against the New York Jets. It is a good sign to see Jones edging closer to a return with his first practice, even if it was just a walk-through.

Long snapper Danny Aiken (concussion) is a new addition to the injury report, as he was limited on Wednesday. Aiken’s injury status coincides with the signing of long snapper Charley Hughlett to the practice squad. Hughlett could provide an option if Aiken is unable to play on Sunday against the Packers.

The other new additions to the injury report who were limited at practice are starting left guard Dan Connolly (ankle), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (shoulder) and running back Shane Vereen (ankle).

Rookie offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (ankle/finger) was limited at the walk-through, but a good sign is that he was no longer wearing his walking boot in the locker room.

Reserve offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (hip), rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley (knee) and core special-teamer Nate Ebner (finger) were also limited participants.

Quarterback Tom Brady (ankle) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (thigh) were full participants for the walk-through.


ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky examines how the Packers' receiving corps matches up with the Patriots' cornerbacks.

Quick hits from Patriots' locker room

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some quick hits from the media-access period in the New England Patriots' locker room on Wednesday:

Fleming sheds walking boot. Rookie offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, who wore a protective boot over his sprained left ankle last week, was present and walking without the boot today. That appears to be a sign of progress for him.

Slater appreciative of extended contract. Special teams captain Matthew Slater drew a large media crowd, and he mostly deflected talk of his contract extension through 2016. He said he didn't really want to get into it because his focus was on the Packers, but he allowed this: "I'm just so thankful for what the lord has done in my life and my career, [to] develop me here as a player and as a man. I'm thankful for an opportunity to continue that development -- to the coaching staff, Bill Belichick and this organization for believing in me and appreciating a player like me."

McCourty concurs with Revis on secondary. After Sunday's win against the Lions, cornerback Darrelle Revis said, "This is probably the best group of guys I've been around, secondary-wise, where everyone is just talented. We can do so many versatile things in our defense." Asked Wednesday if he agrees with Revis' viewpoint, safety Devin McCourty replied: “I would say that's a pretty fair opinion. This group has worked really hard each week of trying to be prepared and trying to be on point to the matchups we have. It hasn't been easy. ...I think our coaching staff does a good job each week coming up with whatever they think gives us the best chance to win. Here, we take it as a challenge to be ready for that. It's not easy when you do different things throughout the week."

Revis: Rodgers the biggest test yet. Revis called Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers the team's biggest test to date. Asked where he seems to hurt defenses most, he said, "Scrambling, when you watch film, that's what you see a lot of -- they extend a lot of plays." Revis added that it's his first time playing at Lambeau Field, which is something he's looking forward to.

Extra points. Receiver Danny Amendola was among the other players drawing a larger media crowd, with his work as a kickoff returner drawing much of the attention. ...New practice squad players Charley Hughlett and tight end Xavier Grimble will wear jersey numbers 53 and 86, respectively.

Raiola fined $10,000 for punch

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26

A day after Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola said he wouldn't be fined for his actions on the final drive of his team's 34-9 loss to New England on Sunday, it turned out he actually was.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora said Wednesday that Raiola was fined $10,000 for unnecessary roughness, but not for his cut block on Patriots defensive lineman Zach Moore on the game's final play. Instead, it was for a play against Moore earlier in the drive, when Moore beat him and Raiola appeared to try to club him from behind.

The league decided that Raiola unnecessarily struck his opponent on a pass play -- violating Rule 12, Section 2, Article 12(c), which doesn't allow "striking, swinging at, or clubbing the head, neck or face of an opponent with the wrist(s), arm(s), elbow(s) or hand(s)."

The veteran center said Tuesday he had no regrets about what happened at the end of the game against New England.

"There's no fine. It was during the game," Raiola said Tuesday. "I don't know about regrets. I don't live life with regrets. I know I didn't intentionally try to hurt anybody.

"I didn't try to do anything out of the ordinary. I would have gotten a FedEx letter for that, so just play the game. I mean, I didn't make it a big deal. Everybody else did."

Raiola was not flagged on the play, but the NFL said Monday that it was looking at both plays in the final minute of the game to determine potential fines.

(Read full post)

Chandler Jones at Patriots' walk-through

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones returned for the team’s walk-through practice on Wednesday.

Jones has been out with a hip injury since Week 7. He played the entirety of that game against the Jets, but has not played in a game or practice since then.

While the practice was just a walk-through, this is a good sign in his recovery that the team has him present.

Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga was also spotted entering the Dana-Farber Field House. Siliga is still on the team’s injured reserve with a designation to return. This is the second time we have seen him at a Patriots walk-through, with the other time being exactly one week ago. Siliga has not returned to normal practices yet.

With the cold, icy weather, the Patriots held the walk-through practice inside the Dana-Farber Field House.