In The Red Zone – October 23

In The Red Zone

Despite Woes Patriots Defense Still Creates Turnovers

We all have our feelings on the Patriots defense, especially the secondary and the gaping amount of yardage they yield.  But as a whole the New England defensive unit is among the league leaders in turnover ratio.

They came into the Week 7 matchup with the New York Jets tied for first with a plus 10. The offense had given up 3 INT and 3 fumbles, while the defense had 6 INTs and 10 fumble recoveries.

After Sunday they now sit at plus 11 in the giveaway/takeaway stat after recovering 1 of 3 Jets fumbles and having rookie CB Alfonzo Dennard get his first NFL INT off of  Mark Sanchez deep in the red zone.

Last season the Patriots finished 3rd in the NFL in turnover differential with a plus 17.  That mark led the AFC and trailed only San Francisco (plus 28) and Green Bay (plus 24).  The plus 17 they had in 2011 was 10 more than the next closest AFC team, which was Houston who finished at plus 7.

Since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994, New England leads the NFL in giveaway/takeaway ratio with a plus 133.  The next closest team in that time span is the Kansas City Chiefs who are plus 88 and then Green Bay is third at plus 72.  I was stunned that noted takeaway teams like Pittsburgh and Chicago were not in the top three.

Luckily in years past whenever the team needed a big play on defense they have gotten it and that was the case once again on an autumn afternoon in Foxboro in 2012.


Play Calling Suspect

At the end of last season offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien left the Patriots to take the head coaching job at Penn State University and former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels returned to his old job to take O’Brien’s place.  But after 7 games in 2012 the offense seems to have hit a wall at times and is being called ”uncreative” by many and others are just openly criticizing the play calling by McDaniels.

I have often said during games that to me the Patriots offense is at its best when they put Tom Brady in the no huddle give him the personnel he needs on the field to run it and just give him the plays and let him go.

Sunday there were times it seemed like they would start clicking in a no huddle or hurry up only to end up going back to a traditional offense.  Other times it seemed as if they would be moving ball by throwing it only to inexplicably call a run play.

Then there was the ultra slow developing flea flicker in which Brady had a wide open Aaron Hernandez shooting down the seem but he could do nothing with it because he hadn’t gotten the ball back yet.

One of the best drives they had in the game was on their second possession of the first half that led to the first Rob Gronkowski TD catch.  In a no huddle, shotgun starting at their 42 yard line they went 7 yard pass to Hernandez.  Incomplete to Gronkowski; 19 yard pass to Gronkowski; 11 yard pass to Hernandez and incomplete to Brandon Lloyd.  Stevan Ridley ran for 4 yards to the Jets 17 and then Brady hit Gronk in the end zone for a TD.

58 yards on 7 plays in 2:19, perfect.

Then their very next drive they started on their own 20 gained 36 yards and after 9 plays they ended up punting.  They used 4:34 but got no where.  Of the 9 plays they ran only 1 was in a no huddle and that got negated on a Jets encroachment penalty.

The other plays in the drive were a 2 yard pass to Julian Edelman; a Shane Vereen 2 yard run; a Ridley 4 yard run for a 1st down at their 33.  Brady then threw incomplete deep to Lloyd; Vereen had a 4-yard run and Gronk caught a 13-yard pass for a 1st down at the 50-yard line.  Ridley went for no gain.  Brady threw to Gronkowski for 7 yards that got called back on holding call on Donald Thomas.  Now 2nd and 20 Brady throws incomplete deep to Lloyd and then 16 yards to Welker forcing the Patriots to punt on 4th and 4.

There was no rhythm to the drive it was like the offense and McDaniels totally lost the feel for the game.  They were leading 14-7 at this point and with an effective uptempo drive they’d have killed about the same amount of clock and possibly come away with at the very least a Stephen Gostkowski field goal and best case another touchdown and start pulling away.

The failure to move the ball on that drive and maintain what they had the drive before was the start of letting the Jets hang around.  On the next Jets possession they got they safety to go up 16-7 but when they got the ball back after the free kick, they ran 4 plays and then had to punt again.

That drive was 3 Ridley runs for 15 total yards gaining a 1st down and then on 3rd and 5 Brady got sacked for a 9 yard loss killing the drive.

Something needs to change with the offensive flow for this team.  McDaniels just needs to put the ball in Brady’s hands and let him fly.  O’Brien was always good for giving Brady the plays he liked best and let him go, McDaniels needs to go back to that part of the offensive philosophy.

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News and Notes

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had his weekly day after conference call with the media on Monday.  (

QB Tom Brady had his weekly Patriots Monday call in. (WEEI)

Offensive snaps by skill players vs. New York  (ESPN Boston)

Defensive snaps played vs. Jets (ESPN Boston)

Patriots secondary reached a new low Sunday against the Jets (ESPN Boston)

The good, bad and ugly from the win (ESPN Boston)

Gostkowski was clutch in getting Patriots past Jets (Boston Herald)

Five takeaways from Jets – Patriots (Boston Globe)

Ninkovich on forcing the OT fumble (Boston Globe)

McCourty: “My teammates saved my life today” (Boston Globe)

New England is 9-3 when wearing throwback uniforms.  6-0 as the home team.

Since 1999 the Patriots have the best record in the NFL at 151-64.

Since 2003 New England is 34-7 in October games.

Since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994 the Patriots are 25-14 vs. the Jets.

New England is 55-15 vs. the AFC East since 2001 in the regular season.  In that time span they are 29-6 in division home games.

Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 the Patriots are 69-14 at home in the regular season.

Bill Belichick’s 196 wins are good for 8th all-time.  He is now 196-107 including playoffs in his career.

Belichick is 19-10 vs. the Jets in his career.  He is 18-9 against them as the head coach in New England and that includes two playoff games (1-1).

Tom Brady is 17-5 vs. the Jets including 1-1 in the playoffs.  Overall including playoffs he is 144-44.

That was Brady’s 35th career game winning performance with the team tied or losing in the fourth quarter.  That was his second comeback win against the Jets, the first was in December of 2001 when New England won 17-16 after starting the 4th quarter trailing 16-14.  Of the 35 game winning performances that was his 10th against an AFC East opponent.

Brady has 312 TD passes in his career he is now 5th all-time.  Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton is 4th with 342.

Brady has thrown at least 1 TD pass in 39 consecutive games.

The Patriots are 84-16 when Brady throws at least 2 TD passes in a game.

WR Wes Welker now has catches in 108 consecutive games including playoffs, 91 as a Patriot.  The last time Welker did not have a catch in a game was 12/24/05 as a Dolphin.

Welker did not get 100-yards receiving so he will share the team record for four consecutive games with 100-yards receiving.

CB Devin McCourty was the deep man for kickoff returns.  He had a costly 4th quarter fumble but he also had a 104-yard return for a TD.  He returned the ball 6 times for 199 yards.

LB Jerod Mayo led the team on Sunday with 11 tackles (10 solo).  Mayo now has a team high 83 tackles with 54 of them being solo.

Mayo also forced a fumble as did LB Rob Ninkovich.  Ninkovich now leads the team in forced fumbles with 4 this year.

Ninkovich also led the team with 1.5 sacks and 2 QB hits.  Ninkovich is now 2nd on the team in sacks with 4, DE Chandler Jones has 5.

Ninkovich had his 2nd fumble recovery of the season on Sunday.

The Patriots sacked New York QB Mark Sanchez 4 times, while allowing Brady to be sacked 1 time.

Rex Ryan is 31-24 in his fourth season as a head coach.  He is 4-2 in the playoffs for an overall record of 35-26.

He is 3-5 vs. New England in his career.

Mark Sanchez is 3-5 vs. the Patriots including 1-0 in the playoffs.

Sanchez had two fumbles on Sunday and both were costly.  The first gave the Patriots a safety and a 16-7 lead in the second quarter.  The second one in OT secured the win when he got strip sacked at the Jets 28-yard line and Ninkovich recovered the ball at the 25-yard line.

Jets S LaRon Landry had a game high 12 tackles, that’s an awful lot for safety to have in a game.

New England is PLUS 11 in turnover differential. The offense has given up 3 INT and 4 fumbles, while the defense has 7 INTs and 11 fumble recoveries.

The Patriots were 2 for 2 (100%) in the red zone.  They had 2 TDs. New York was 2 for 4 (50%) in the red zone.  They had 2 TDs and 2 FGs.

New England was 9 for 17 (53%) on third down conversions and 0 for 0 on 4th down attempts. The Jets were 8 for 15 (53%) on 3rd down conversions and 0 for 0 on 4th down attempts.

Next Week

The Patriots visit London England to face the St. Louis Rams next Sunday at Wimbley Stadium.  Kick off is at 1 p.m. on CBS.

Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMichaelsII