Nov 232012
 

With just under seven minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Houston Texans found themselves trailing the Detroit Lions 24-14 in their Thanksgiving match-up. Then Justin Forsett took a handoff from Matt Schaub and ran the ball for a six yard gain. Or what appeared to be a six yard gain. Or what should have been a six yard gain. Instead, after Forsett’s knee and and elbow contacted the ground (and thus ended the play) he kept running, going 81 yards for a touchdown.

Of course what should have happened is that a review of the play should have reversed the field decision and given the Texans the ball at their own 25 yard line, because all scoring plays are subject to booth review. Instead, the play was declared non-reviewable, and a touchdown that should never have been was allowed to stand.

How did this happen? Simply because Lions’ Head Coach Jim Schwartz threw the challenge flag on the play. In previous years such a play would have had to have been challenged from the sideline, but this year is the first season of reviewing all scoring plays. None the less, Schwartz’s emotions got the best of him, and the challenge flag was on the field before the play was even over.The officials then determined, as is outlined in NFL rules, that the challenge was illegal and unsportsmanlike, requiring a penalty against the Lions. Further, the rules state that the Lions then cannot benefit from a challenge, even one normally scheduled to take place, and the play was therefore deemed non-reviewable. To add insult to injury, Detroit was assessed a 15 yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff for the illegal challenge.

The Texans would go on to win the game 34-31 in overtime, leaving Lions’ fans outraged over the egregious call on the field that sparked the controversy. It was an error more befitting the replacement officials that we began the year with than the “real” officials, but they are human and screwed the call up on the field. And it only got worse from there.

I am not arguing that the call made the difference in the game. There was still well over a quarter of football to play, and both teams squandered opportunities to win the game in overtime before Shayne Graham finally connected on a 32 yard field goal with 2:21 left in the extra session to give the Texans the victory. The mistake simply became a part of the game, and the Lions had numerous opportunities to make sure that the play did not cost the Lions the game. The loss itself is on the Lions.

Nor am I arguing that the officials made the wrong call in their enforcement of replay rules. Point in fact, they enforced the rules exactly as they are written.

And that brings us to the real culprit; the rule itself.

Presumably, the NFL changed the rule this year to review all scoring plays in order to make sure that the officials got calls right on the plays that had the greatest impact on the game. Secondarily, I imagine that the rule was changed because the challenge system is inherently flawed; why is it the Head Coach’s responsibility to seek to correct the mistakes of the officials? Ever since the challenge system was created, I have advocated for booth review of all plays, buzzing down to the referees for further review whenever necessary. After all, if the emphasis is on getting it right, then let’s remove the doubt. Instead, the NFL created a ridiculous challenge system whereby coaches were given two challenges over the course of the game and, if they were better at officiating than the officials, they could earn a third for two successful challenges. So what if the officials make four mistakes against the same team? This arbitrary and illogical system seemed to straddle some strange concern over whether or not officials would be offended by the use of replay. My advice to the NFL? Get over it already. If we’re going to have replay, which only makes sense given the speed of the game and the technology available to us, then let’s use it to make sure that all calls are correct.

Even worse, instead of creating rules that reinforced the idea of getting calls right, the NFL adopted a rule penalizing a coach and team for an illegal challenge and then making plays non-reviewable. The only possible conclusion to the NFL’s logic is that it is more important to make sure that the Head Coach doesn’t throw a weighted red bag onto the field than it is to get the call right. Right? On what planet does it make sense to prioritize the convenience of the officials over the need to call the game right?

Jim Schwarz was overly gracious in taking full responsibility for the mistake by saying, “Yeah, I know that rule,” Schwartz said. “You can’t challenge a turnover or a scoring play and I overreacted. I was so mad that they didn’t call him down ’cause he was obviously down on the field. I had the flag out of my pocket before he even scored the touchdown. That’s all my fault. I overreacted in that situation and I cost us a touchdown.” No, Jim. It’s really not all your fault, at least not yours alone. This is also the fault of a system that was not very well thought out, and that considered getting the call right to be a secondary concern.

This rule is one that is likely to be changed, and the biggest wrangling seems to be over whether or not the change will occur during this season or if it will wait until after the season. In any event, it is unfortunate that a game as good as the one yesterday had to be tainted with such a horrible call on the field, and a ridiculous league rule that prevented a correction of the mistake. The call itself is no better, and probably worse, than the one made by replacement officials that awarded a touchdown to Golden Tate in the Seahawks’ win over the Packers. And this one was created by the guys we trust. At least in this case Forsett at least had the decency to later admit that he was down even if he didn’t think so at the time.

Ironically, this call was made by a field crew headed by Walt Coleman. Coleman is famous (or infamous) for being the referee who reversed his own decision in the famous 2002 “Tuck Rule” game (more appropriately referred to by Patriots’ fans as the Snow Bowl) which awarded the ball to the Patriots after Tom Brady had appeared to fumble. The Patriots, of course, went on to win due to two clutch field goals by Adam Vinatieri, and then went on to beat the Steelers in the AFC Championship before beating the St. Louis Rams to claim their first Super Bowl title. A huge difference, of course, was that the call on the field in the game yesterday was dead wrong, a major mistake by the officials on the field. In the 2002 game, the call on the field seemed to make sense from initial visible evidence (even Brady thought it was a fumble), but the replay was used to correct the call on the field to match NFL rules, whether or not one agreed with the rule. In the case of the tuck rule, eleven years later the rule is still in effect, is used at least a couple of times each season, and makes sense as a rule even if people disagree with its enforcement. In yesterday’s game, the officials were prevented from correcting their own mistake and conforming to league rules, because someone, somewhere was more worried about officials having to deal with an occasional bean bag being thrown out of order. And that rule gets our tag for being the dumbest rule ever.

Nov 192012
 

The New England Patriots tied a franchise-record 59 points on their way to a 59-24 blowout win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday in Foxboro.

The Patriots win was a full team effort, with the defense returning two interceptions for touchdowns, Julian Edelman returning a punt for a touchdown, and Tom Brady throwing for 331 yards and three scores as the Patriots embarrassed Andrew Luck and the Colts. Luck threw for 334 yards and two scores, but had three interceptions and a lost fumble as the Patriots brought pressure early and often on the rookie phenom.

The Colts started the scoring with an efficient seven play drive led by Luck and running back Vick Ballard. Before the fans could get settled into their seats at Gillette Stadium, Delone Carter scored from one yard out to put the Colts up 7-0. The drive was aided by a dreadful play by Kyle Arrington, who prevented a touchdown only by committing pass interference at the Patriots’ 6 yard line. The Patriots fired right back, needing eight plays for Brady to connect with Rob Gronkowski for a four yard touchdown to tie the game up. The touchdown reception was Gronk’s 36th career touchdown, tying him with John Jefferson for third most in a tight end’s first three seasons. The pass also extended Tom Brady’s streak for games with at least one touchdown pass to 42, the third longest streak in NFL history. Gronk caught three passes on that drive for a total of 56 yards.

The Colts next possession was just as effective as their first, with Ballard ripping off key runs and LaVon Brazill making an artful catch and run that went for 25 yards. On the tenth play of the drive Luck connected with TY Hilton for a 14 yard touchdown and a 14-7 Colts’ lead. The Patriots then marched right back down the field, reaching the Colts’ 18 before two incomplete passes forced a Patriots’ field goal attempt from 36 yards, which Stephen Gostkowski missed to the right. The Colts now had the opportunity to build a lead, but the Patriots’ defense forced a three and out. Julian Edelman then took the punt return 68 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 14. Then, on the second play of the following Colts’ possession, Luck’s pass to Reggie Wayne was intercepted by Aqib Talib in his first game as a Patriot. Talib returned the pick 59 yards for a touchdown and a 21-14 Patriots’ lead.

Luck seemed distraught following the pick six, but then calmly drove the Colts’ once again through the Patriots’ defense. Luck connected with Wayne twice and then to Brazill again for another 21 yards as the Colts reached the Patriots’ 29 before three straight missed passes forced the Colts to settle for a 47 yard Adam Vinatieri field goal, cutting the lead to 21-17. Not surprisingly, the Patriots immediately returned the favor, relying on Shane Vereen’s running and passes to Wes Welker and Gronk to move to the Colts’ 13, with Ghost connecting on a 31 yard field goal to put the margin back to 7. Vinatieri would then miss on a 58 yard attempt to close the first half.

The second half saw the game get away from the Colts in a hurry. On the Patriots’ possession to open the half, Brady connected with Julian Edelman on a long third down play to spark the drive. Brady then connected with Welker twice and Gronk once, and Ridley had an 11 yard run to get the Patriots into striking distance before Brady connected with Edelman on a two yard touchdown pass, increasing the lead to 31-17. The teams then exchanged punts over the next two drives. On the second Colts’ drive of the half, Rob Ninkovich sacked Luck, stripping Luck of the ball and recovering the fumble himself. This set up the Patriots at the Colts’ 24 yard line. Brady then connected with Gronk on the next play for a 24 yard touchdown, and the rout was on.

On the next drive, the Colts drove to the Patriots’ 23 before Luck was picked off by rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who outraced Luck on his way to an 87 yard touchdown, putting the Patriots up 45-17. The Patriots would add touchdown runs for Ridley and Vereen while Luck connected with TY Hilton on a 43 yard touchdown pass to close the day’s scoring.

The big news after the game was word that Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm on an extra point play in the fourth quarter. Gronk had surgery earlier today. Initial fears were that Gronk might be out for 4-8 weeks, but my guess is that we will see Gronk in 3-4 weeks. However long he is out, the Patriots will once again need to alter their offensive attack to make up for a missing player. Chances are high that this will force the return of Aaron Hernandez, who was once again held out with a high ankle sprain.

When the Patriots ran:

The Patriots were able to run the ball at times against the Colts, but on the whole the running effort was underwhelming. In part this was by design, as the Patriots were heavily reliant on the passing game, but in part this was also due to the efforts of Cory Redding, who clogged running lanes and slowed down the Patriots’ runners. Edelman was the leading back on the day with one end around for 47 yards, while Vereen added 40 yards on 11 carries and Ridley posted only 28 yards on 13 carries. Advantage: Colts

When the Patriots passed:

Brady was kept clean most of the day and the Colts’ failed to tally a sack on the day, highlighting a solid effort by a patchwork offensive line who negated the Colts’ pass rush. Brady threw for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns, connecting with Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker seven times each, and hitting Julian Edelman five times as Edelman became a key part of the offense. The Colts had no answers for Gronk, and also had trouble with Brandon Lloyd, who tallied four catches on the day. Advantage: Patriots

When the Colts ran:

Vick Ballard had a very effective day, pounding out 72 yards on 16 carries as the Colts ran for 119 yards on the day. Had this been a close game the Colts’ rushing attack might well have been the difference, as the Patriots struggled to contain both Ballard and Carter.  Advantage: Colts

When the Colts passed:

Luck’s 334 yards and two touchdowns give him a respectable stat sheet, but three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, showed that the Patriots’ decision to bring pressure to bear on the rookie quarterback was the right decision. Luck looked rattled after the first quarter and made some poor decisions throwing the ball. The Patriots registered only one sack (which resulted in a lost fumble by Luck) but were routinely in his face. Pressure by Vince Wilfork forced Luck to alter a throw to Wayne in the second quarter, which resulted in the Talib pick six. For his part, Talib had a decent first game, but also struggled at times, and seemed to be playing his way back into football shape after serving his four game, five week suspension. Kyle Arrington had a poor day in the secondary and seems to be struggling to stay in the line-up. For once however, the advantage in this part of the game goes to the Pats. Advantage: Patriots

Special Teams:

Julian Edelman returned one punt 68 yards for a touchdown and then nearly broke another for a score, returning that punt 49 yards to set up a short field for a fourth quarter scoring drive. The Colts routinely started with poor field position. Advantage: Patriots

Intangibles:

The Patriots won the turnover battle 4-0. Between special teams play and turnovers, a competitive shootout ended after the first quarter. Advantage: Patriots

Key Moment:  Two, actually, within 57 seconds of each other in the second quarter. First, Julian Edelman returned a punt for a touchdown, and then two plays later Aqib Talib returned an interception for a score, turning a 14-7 deficit into a 21-14 lead and giving the Patriots control of the game.

Game Ball: Julian Edelman. 5 receptions for 58 yards and a score. One rush for 47 yards to set up a score. Two punt returns for 117 yards and a score. If the Colts had no answers for Gronk, they had even fewer answers for Edelman.

Nov 172012
 

The Indianapolis Colts roll into Foxboro this weekend with a new quarterback to renew an old rivalry as the Colts face the Patriots in a 4:25 pm match-up at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Both teams enter the game with a 6-3 record. For the Patriots, the 6-3 record is reflective of a poor start in which the Patriots’ defense has made nearly every opposing quarterback look like Joe Montana, coupled with an offense that, while productive, has struggled to close out games when it has the the lead and the ball. The Colts’ 6-3 is just the opposite; they have already surpassed the season win total projected for them by most experts and seem poised to make a surprising run into the playoffs. The Colts still enter this game deserving to be the underdogs, but they are a team the Patriots cannot afford to take lightly.

Here’s how the game breaks down:

When the Patriots run

The Patriots have the fifth best rushing attack in the league, averaging 146 yards per game and led by Stevan Ridley. The Colts surrender just over 120 yards per game, ranking 22nd in the league, and this match-up favors the Patriots. In order to apply pressure to Brady, the Colts will have to rush four to five players and drop the rest into coverage. A weak secondary will put strain on the linebackers to take away the dink and dunk offense, making them susceptible to draw plays. Robert Mathis, Jerry Hughes and Dwight Freeney are effective pass rushers, but their hunger to get to Brady will open running lanes for Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and Shane Vereen. Using a hurry-up attack will also force the Colts to limit their substitutions, tire their defenders, and make them even more vulnerable to the Patriots’ ground game. Look for the Patriots to run in excess of 140 yards again on Sunday.

When the Patriots pass

Safeties Antoine Bethea and Tom Zbikowski are in for a tough day. The relatively weak cornerbacks are going to have their hands full with Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. Darius Butler had a great game against the Jaguars, but wasn’t facing Tom Brady that day. The Patriots’ cast-off is likely to be tested down the field a few times as Brady takes occasional stabs at big plays. The middle of the field should be wide open for short passes, and the 7th ranked passing attack should carve up the field and affect long drives against the Colts’ patchwork secondary. With Aaron Hernandez likely being held back again this week, look for Gronkowski to have a big day receiving, complemented by Visanthe Shiancoe and Julian Edelman. The Patriots may only get around 250 passing yards, but the way that they get them will dictate the pace of the game.

When the Colts run

The Patriots’ defense has shut down numerous running backs this season, yielding a 100 yard game only to Ray Rice this season. The Patriots have the 8th ranked rushing defense (96.6 ypg) and will focus on slowing down Andrew Luck, daring the Colts to run the ball. Vick Ballard is a promising back, complemented by Donald Brown and Delone Carter, but these backs pale to the competition that the Patriots have faced through their first nine games. Even in sub-packages, the Patriots are likely to be content rushing three or four defenders, and will hold the running backs to short gains. The Colts average 109.4 yards rushing per game, and will likely come in near that number for the game.

When the Colts pass

Andrew Luck is having an outstanding rookie season, and Reggie Wayne is having a Pro Bowl season, aiding the young quarterback’s development. Donnie Avery and TY Hilton are very capable receivers, and the Colts’ passing attack (8th in the NFL) should put up 300 or more yards against the Patriots’ secondary. The Patriots rank 29th against the pass and are set to ease newly-acquired Aqib Talib into the fold at cornerback this weekend, but the adjustment will take time and Talib will likely not have a huge impact in his first game. The move of Devin McCourty to safety looks like a semi-permanent one, which plays into McCourty’s skill set. The secondary is improving, but the Patriots lack of cohesiveness in the secondary, plus their refusal to sell out in rushing the quarterback, mean Luck will continue his march towards a rookie record for passing yards. Luck will get his yards and some points, but the Colts may find themselves playing catch-up against the Patriots’ offense. A potential tipping point is the inability of the Colts’ offensive line to consistently protect Andrew Luck. This could result in Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower getting pressure and forcing big plays, but it could also work in reverse by making Luck improvise against a secondary that is susceptible to quarterbacks who can extend plays.

Special Teams

Some guy named Adam Vanatieri is the Colts’ kicker. Seriously, Vinatieri is still pretty good, but Stephen Gostkowski is the superior kicker. Pat McAfee is a good punter with a slight edge over Zoltan Mesko, but Mesko excels at pinning opponents deep. Both return units are adequate, but neither represents a significant and consistent threat. Gostkowski tends to put most kickoffs through the end zone.

Intangibles

Turnovers represent a key statistic in any NFL game, and this does not bode well for the Colts, who are -12 in the turnover battle this season. The Patriots are third in the league with a +17 in turnovers, and Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Vince Wilfork, and Rob Ninkovich excel in creating opportunities for the Patriots offense to play with a short field. In order for the Colts to win, they likely have to win the turnover battle by +2 or +3, but this is simply not in their character so far this year as a team. The Patriots thrive on creating big plays, one of the reasons why the Patriots, while ranked 25th in total defense,  rank 15th in points allowed. A second intangible is the pace of the play. If the Patriots move to a hurry up offense, the Colts’ defense will likely wear down, and by the second half the lead could be out of control for the Colts.

Prediction

No game has been easy for the Patriots this season, save for perhaps the game against the Rams. The Colts will strike early through the air, and I expect a bit of a see-saw through the first quarter and a half as the teams trade scores. But as the second quarter goes on, the Patriots will begin using more and more of the clock on drives while limiting defensive substitutions, and the Patriots will secure the halftime lead. Look for more of the same in the third quarter, and then the fourth quarter becomes Andrew Luck putting up the ball to try and get back in the game. Predicted score: Patriots 38 Colts 27.

Sep 092012
 

Welcome to our live blog of the Patriots-Titans contest. This post will be updated as game events unfold. Feel free to leave your comments below. Be kind. :-)

Three Keys for the Patriots

If you are a Patriots fan, here’s what you are looking for in Week One:

1. 3rd down defense; The Patriots were the worst in the league last season for getting off the field on third down. Will the new look defense with Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower be able to get the ball back into the hands of Tom Brady with more frequency?

2. Offensive line; The line had troubles in the pre-season and looks to be without Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters, but Mankins, Solder, and Vollmer are all back on the field. Will they give Brady the time he needs to pick apart opposing defenses?

3. Better secondary; The front seven has a lot to do with how good any secondary looks, but what about the performance of the Pat’s corners and safeties? Will McCourty rebound from a tough sophomore year? Will Dowling stay healthy? Is Dennard a diamond in the rough? Will Gregory, Wilson and Ebner be a step up from last year’s nightmare rotation at safety? Locker and the Titans should only be effective if Chris Johnson is having a monster game.

Three Keys for the Titans

1. Is Jake Locker ready? Look for the Titans to try and spread things out to give Locker opportunities to make plays with both his arm and his feet. Locker looked adequate in the pre-season but was not close to stellar.

2. Will Chris Johnson return to Pro Bowl form? Is a full training camp and pre-season all that Johnson needs to return to form? The Patriots defense projects to be stout against the run, but Johnson is capable of turning any play into a big gain. This is a good early test for both sides.

3. Is the defensive line as good as the Titans think it is? The Titans greatest weakness of 2011 might well be a strength of 2012, if the Titans can bring pressure to bear on opposing quarterbacks. Expect the strength of this unit to be up the middle as the defensive ends progress more slowly, but injuries may make the middle susceptible this week.

Note – the Titans will be without wide receiver Kenny Britt, who is serving a one game suspension.

PREDICTION: Patriots 28 Titans 17

Players listed as “Out” or “Inactive”  are:

Patriots –
DE Jake Bequette
CB Alfonzo Dennard
TE Daniel Fells
DL Marcus Forston
DL Justin Francis
OL Nick McDonald
RB Shane Vereen <sarcasm>shocker</sarcasm>

Titans –
QB Rusty Smith
RB Javon Ringer
LB Zac Diles
T Mike Otto
T Byron Stingily
DE Pannel Egboh
DT Sen’Derrick Marks

GAME BLOG

Pre-Game: CBS reporting more trouble coming for the beleaguered New Orleans Saints as a result of a DEA investigation. A civil settlement is being negotiated but this will no doubt carry more penalties from the league. Nice ship you’ve been running there, Coach Payton.

Pre-Game. The game hasn’t started yet and I already love NFL Sunday Ticket! Also, wearing the silver “54” Bruschi jersey today. Let’s see how it goes. :-)

FIRST QUARTER
15:00 – It’s officially New England football season!

Titans possession:
Good containment on first two plays. Good pressure on third down but Titans convert for 17 yard game. Same problem as last season on third down. PI against Dowling. So far the Titans are giving Locker short, safe plays. Titans go on fourth down after bad spot for Johnson. Great pass from Locker to Washington for big gain. Pats stiffen up but McCourty gets away with obvious PI. Titans get field goal for early 3-0 lead.

Patriots possession:
Begin at 26 yard line after McCourty return. Hernandez nice catch and run for 9. Ridley looks tentative on short carry, but then tears off a big gain for 17. Lloyd misjudged ball and misses an easy touchdown. Walker drops a sure first down to end drive. Patriots punt.

Titans possession:
Tennessee starts on own 19 after short Mesko punt. Chandler Jones stuffs Johnson for three yard loss. Run defense looking stout so far. On third and twelve Pats stop Titans for quick three and out.

Patriots possession:
Patriots get nice punt return from Edelman to start at the at their own 32 yard line. Brady hits Gronk for big 28 yard gain. Ridley rips off another big gain for 16. Brady to Hernandez for 23 yard touchdown strike! 7-3 Patriots.

Titans possession:
Titans start at own 18. Locker starts with three straight passes as Titans convert on third down again. Need to see where the coverage breakdown was. Fourth straight pass for four yard gain as Pats maintain containment.

END OF FIRST QUARTER

SECOND QUARTER

Titans possession:
Titans open with stretch pass for first down. Pats pick off Locker on next play In the end zone. Gift wrapped for Tavon Wilson – welcome to the NFL.

Patriots possession:
Pats start with acrobatic catch by Lloyd for 28, challenged by Titans. Bad challenge as Lloyd definitely caught the ball; play confirmed. Ridley gets 7 on quick pass before getting stuffed on the next play. On third down Brady gets sacked by Wimbley, forcing a Patriots punt, which the Pats down near the 10. Wimbley’s knee hit Brady in the face, drawing blood. Giselle is not going to be happy. ;-p

Titans possession:
Pats snuff run again after Washington drops an easy pass. Hightower looks good so far today. Pats strip Locker of ball, Hightower gets easy touchdown. Pats up 14-3. This defense is definitely looking like an improvement over the 2011 model. Chandler Jones forced the fumble. Good day for Pats rookies so far.

Titans possession:
Titans start at own 18 after blatant hold on return. Chandler Jones stuffs Johnson on first down run. Short pass for two but Mayo shuts it down. Locker scrambles nicely for first down. Locker misses open pass after Pats shut down anoth run, bringing up third down. Johnson catches pass from Locker but comes up a yard short. Titans punt. Edelman muffs punt but the was pretty clear interference by the Titans. First down Patriots.

Patriots possession:
Ridley tears off 15 yard run to open drive. Sideline pass to Lloyd for 9. Brady muscles out first down on the sneak. Brady misses Welker on long pass. Woodhead makes smart play to create manageable third down. Injury timeout for a Titans defender. Hernandez takes direct snap for first down. Brady to Gronk for 7. Edelman for another first down. 5 more yards with connection to Welker. Woodhead runs it to the 10; third down. Titans confused on coverage assignment but Brady calls Pats first time out. Ridley takes it to the 2. First and goal. Brady to Gronk for two yard touchdown. Woot! Pats up 21-3.

Titans possession:
Cook stays in bounds after short completion but Reynaud gets out after first down catch. Locker sacked by Jermaine Cunningham. Williams catch brings up 3rd and 5 aft second Tennessee timeout (first used on challenge). Titans receiver Williams doesn’t use head on third down play, short of first down, forcing punt. Pats take second timeout.

Patriots possession:
Pats start at own 12 after short Edelman return. Pats take knee into halftime.

END OF SECOND QUARTER

Halftime reactions: Rookie defenders are looking great for the Pats. Troubling sign for Jake Bequette that he is inactive today. Locker doesn’t look bad at all, but Chris Johnson can’t find room to run on the defense and the Titans defense can’t keep up with Brady and Co. Ridley is looking like a premiere running back today. Patriots get the ball to start the second half.

THIRD QUARTER

Patriots possession:
Pats open on their own 20. Pass to Hernandez for 4. Ridley muscles out a first down- solid running day so far. Ridley another nice run for 7. Quick stretch play to Hernandez for another 12. Ridley loses one on nice play by Morgan. Brady misfires short on blitz. Edelman angry on called incomplete- looks like he caught the ball off his shoe. No challenge by Belichick and Patriots punt.

Titans possession:
Locker opens with big 35 yard completion to Jared Cook. McCourty breaks up next Locker pass. Chris Johnson gets 15 on short pass. Locker to Washington on pretty play as Locker was on his way to being sacked. Pats 21 Titans 10.

Patriots possession:
Brady opens with a bounce to Lloyd. Ridley gets 4 to set up a long third down. Gronk saves a low pass for a first down. Ridley ridden down for 4 yard loss by Jason McCourty. Hernandez gets five back to set up another third and long. Another first down completion to Gronk. Brady to Lloyd for another 11 yards, then to Welker for just one. Hernandez for 7 more. Brady can’t find a receivers on third down and throws the ball away. Patriots punt and Mesko pins the Titans at the 9 yard line.

Titans possession:
Johnson snuffed on opening pass. McCourty picks off Locker on errant throw, but it is a questionable pick. Play being reviewed. Play overruled – good call by official. Third and ten. Designed quartback for big gain, but Titans held, so the play comes back. Titans stuffed at 2 yard line to bring up punt.

Patriots possession:
Edelman brings punt to the Titans 47 to set up the offense. Brady to Gronk for six yards. Ridley runs throu a big hole to get it to the Titans 26. Lloyd for six more, then Ridley pounds another first down. Ridley to the one yard line. Patriots wearing down the Titans front line. Ridley touchdown. Pats 28 Titans 10.

Titans possession:
Johnson hammered for one yard loss. Fans booing, but the Pats defense is just soffocating the run. Locker incomplete as Wilfork hammers him. Locker to Williams for the first down. Wright for 12 to end quarter.

END OF THIRD QUARTER

FOURTH QUARTER

Titans possession:
Johnson underneath for three. Free play (offsides) covered by Chandler Jones. Second and short. Nate Washington hammered after big gain, loses ball to Patrick Chung. Locker gets Hurts left shoulder during the tackle. Washington not getting up; injury timeout. Clean hit to cause the fumble. Play overturned as incomplete, but Hasselbeck on field. Good call on replay. Hasselbeck to Johnson for big third down conversion. Williams for seven yards, then Hawkins for a first down. Raynaud runs for two. Mayo PI for another first down. Stevens for five on a screen. Wright on a quick pass to the Patriot two. Johnson snuffed by Wilfork for loss off four. Johnson now has 11 carries for 4 yards. Wow. Hasselbeck misfires on second down. Incomplete on third down; good no-call on Chung. Titans nail field goal. Pats 28 Titans 13.

Patriots possession:
Ridley catches a pass out of the backfield for 20 yards. Woodhead for three and then Brady to Lloyd for a first down. Lloyd looks good today – 5 catches. Woodhead runs for two. Welker for 8 after Phil Simms calls the Titans defense cows standing in a pasture. Woodhead for six. Woodhead for two more. Ridley rips through the defense down to the 10 yard line. Ridley for one yard. He has 123 yards today (unofficial). Patriots take first time out with 4:33 left. Connolly in locker room – Brian Waters might be getting a call soon. Ridley for two as Titans take first time out. Brady scrambles out of trouble but misses Hernandez in he end zone. Ghost makes it a 31-13 margin with a field goal. 4:15 left.

Titans possession:
Titans start at the 20. Wright for four. Next an incomplete pass. Hasselbeck misfires on third down, forcing a fourth down attempt. Bad pass by Hasselbeck leads to turnover deep in Titan territory. I question doing that on fourth down. The game is decided and now they are inviting the Patriots to step on their throats.

Patriots possession:
Brandon Bolden for nine, then for two more. First down. Bolden for two more as the Patriots take it to two minutes. Looks like the Patriots are invoking the mercy rule. Bolden stuffed on next run. This is Brady’s 125th, moving his past Fran Tarkenton. Bolden loses ground to the 15. Ghost adds three more for 34-13 advantage. 31 seconds left.

Titans possession:
Titans run out the clock.

END OF FOURTH QUARTER

FINAL SCORE: PATRIOTS 31 TITANS 13

Post-Game Analysis:

The Titans are a good team and appear to be in the verge of being a contender, but they were simply no match for the Patriots today. The Patriots displayed excellent balance on offense, with Stevan Ridley racking up 125 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown, and the Patriots defense looked much improved over last season, stuffing the run and forcing the Titans into a one dimensional offense. This game set a good tone that the Patriots hope to follow up on next week.

When the Patriots ran:

As noted Ridley racked up 125 yards and the Patriots rushed for 162 yards overall as the caught the Titans off guard with their attack. Ridley ripped off several large chunks of yards as the Titans could not contain the Patriots’ attack. Advantage: Patriots

When the Patriots passed:

Tom Brady was his usual efficient self, going 23 for 31 (74%) for 236 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. Gronkowski and Hernandez each had six catches and Brandon Lloyd had five in his Patriots debut. The balance among receivers also had the Titans guessing all afternoon. Wes Welker had a quiet three receptions for 14 yards, and was a non-factor in the game. Advantage: Patriots

When the Titans ran:

Chris Johnson finished with 4 yards on 11 carries, and the Titans only rushed for 20 yards. The Patriots front seven simply suffocated the Titans run game all day, and Titans had no answer for Vice Wilfork, Chandler Jones, and Dont’a Hightower. Advantage: Patriots

When the Titans passed:

Although the Titans were turned into a one-dimensional offense today, Locker performed admirably. He was 23 of 32 (71%) for 229 yards with one touchdown and one interception before leaving with an injured left shoulder. Matt Hasselbeck went 6 of 11 for 43 yards when the game was well out of hand. The 272 yards of passing offense was commendable, but the Patriots limited the Titans to short catches for the most part, with the longest plays being for 35 and 29 yards. Advantage: Tie

Special Teams:

No major plays on either side, and no major blunders. Both kickers posted two field goals. Advantage: Tie

 

Key Moment: Chandler Jones’ strip of Jake Locker that Dont’a Hightower brought in for a touchdown

This week’s game ball goes to Stevan Ridley

Aug 222012
 

…is “When you’re in one, stop digging.”

And so it should be that Maurice Jones-Drew would be well-served to listen to this ago-old piece of advice. Jones-Drew (or MJD) is a remarkable running back who led the NFL in rushing yards last season and  broke the Jaguars franchise records for both rushing yards in a season and also yards from scrimmage in a season, finishing with 1,606 rushing yards and accounting for more than 47 percent of the Jaguars’ offensive production.

There is no question about MJD’s talent or of his importance to the Jaguars’ attack. With Blaine Gabbert set to start at quarterback this season, the Jags’ offense looks to be weak, and potentially disastrous. Yet, owner Shad Khan is quite right to refuse MJD a new contract and to call his player out over MJD’s protracted holdout.

Why? Simply put, it was MJD who agreed to a new deal in 2009 that was front loaded with cash (5 years, $39.5 million, $17.5 million guaranteed and $9 million signing bonus) in order to keep the then-budding star happy. Now, because his base salary is “only” set at $4.45 million this year, MJD is unhappy and has refused to report to the Jaguars. Rumors are now swirling that he is both open to a trade and wanting to bridge the gap with the Jaguars.

Here’s a little piece of advice to MJD; you have zero leverage in this game. If you choose to sit out until Week 10 (in order to get service credit for the season), you are still under contract in 2013, and even after that the Jaguars can use the franchise tag to stop you from moving. The Jags have no incentive to trade you, short of a team sending crazy talent and/or picks to Jacksonville, and unless you are going to sit for the next two seasons, you need to come to grips with the reality of the situation.

And the reality is that, while MJD now claims to be open to “bridging the gap”, the gap is one of his own creation.

May 222012
 

 

Indianapolis Colts

Head Coach: Chuck Pagano

 

Projected Starting Quarterback: Andrew Luck

2011 Record:  2 wins, 14 losses (4th in AFC South)

No postseason appearance

30th in Total Offense, 25th in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 111 wins, 49 losses (2nd in NFL)

9 win, 8 loss in postseason

1-1 in Super Bowl appearances

2-2 All-time in Super Bowl

May 222012
 

 

Tennessee Titans

Head Coach: Mike Munchak

Projected Starting Quarterback: Jake Locker

2011 Record:  9 wins, 7 losses (2nd in AFC South)

No postseason appearance

17th in Total Offense, 18th in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 86 wins, 74 losses (T-11th in NFL)

2 win, 4 loss in postseason

No Super Bowl appearances

0-1 All-time in Super Bowl

May 222012
 

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Head Coach: Mike Mularkey

Projected Starting Quarterback: Blaine Gabbert

2011 Record:  5 wins, 11 losses (3rd in AFC South)

No postseason appearance

32nd in Total Offense, 6th in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 76 wins, 84 losses (19th in NFL)

1 win, 2 loss in postseason

No Super Bowl appearances

0-0 All-time in Super Bowl

May 222012
 

 

Houston Texans

Head Coach: Gary Kubiak

Projected Starting Quarterback: Matt Schaub

2011 Record:  10 wins, 6 losses (1st in AFC South)

1-1 in postseason (lost in Divisional round)

13th in Total Offense, 2nd in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 65 wins, 95 losses (T-25th in NFL)

1 win, 1 loss in postseason

No Super Bowl appearances

0-0 All-time in Super Bowl