In the Red Zone

Offensive Line a Work in Progress

One of the biggest takeaways from the New England Patriots 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals was the poor work of the Patriots offensive line compared to the Week 1 win over Tennessee.

In Week 1 Tom Brady was sacked only 1 time, hit 4 times and hurried about 5 or 6 times.  In Sunday’s loss Brady was sacked 4 times, hit 6 times and hurried at least 10-12 times.  As Rodney Harrison said “Tom Brady was running for his life.”

The line needs to get better, granted they were missing Dan Connolly, who suffered a concussion against Tennessee and dressed but did not play.  They also have seen the retirement of T Matt Light, G Brian Waters has decided to sit out at this point and long time C Dan Koppen was released and signed with Denver.

The replacements for these guys need to step up.  UConn grad G Donald Thomas, 2nd year player Marcus Cannon, C Ryan Wendell, and the tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder need to solidify their play and get better in pass protection.

The poor line play also hurt the running game.  RB Stevan Ridley went from 125 yards to 71 yards and overall the rushing yards dropped off from 165 yards on 35 carries (4.6 yards per rush) to 90 yards on 28 carries (3.2 yards per rush).

We all saw how effective Ridley was against Tennessee and while he had a decent day 18 carries for 71 yards (3.9 average) it wasn’t the 6-yard average he had the week before.

Arizona got creative with their defense and went with only two down lineman and 5 defensive backs to prevent the big play downfield and fill in some gaps but it was surprisingly effective against the run.  You have to wonder going forward how many other teams who have the right personnel will try to adapt a similar scheme to shut down the Patriots offense.

Special Teams Let Down

One of the area’s head coach Bill Belichick preaches about is special teams and this could also be included when he speaks of situational football.

The usually solid special teams let the Patriots down on Sunday in some key situations.

First was the blocked punt by Arizona’s Quentin Groves in the third quarter.  The Patriots were facing 4th and 9 from their own 11 yard line when Zoltan Mesko suffered the first blocked punt of his career.  Groves blew past the Patriot defender (TE Mike Hoomanawanui) on the left side of the line and went in for the block that gave the Cardinals the ball on the 2-yard line.  The ensuing touchdown put Arizona up 13-9, a lead they would not relinquish despite their best efforts to give the Patriots a win.

The second let down was the usually tried and true field goal kicker Stephen Gostkowski missing a 42-yard field goal for the win.  Prior to the miss with just seconds remaining Gostkowski had made his last 38 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter or overtime.

It’s ironic that the miss was eerily similar to the missed field goal suffered by the Baltimore Ravens last January in the AFC Championship game.  It even occurred at the same end of the field and seemed to be pushed just as far to the left.

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This Defense looks for Real

After holding Tennessee to 284 total yards in Week 1 the New England defense came back and held the Arizona defense to just 245 total yards they also caused two fumbles; one in the games final minute deep in Arizona territory that put them in position to win.

The Cardinals had just 16 first downs (8 rushing, 7 passing, and 1 via penalty) and were a woeful 4 for 14 (29%) on 3rd down efficiency.  They had only 140 yards through the air and got another 105 on the ground, when compared to what the Patriots gave up over the last two seasons is a significant improvement in yards allowed.

RB Beanie Wells was held to just 44 yards on 14 carries and their longest run from scrimmage came from a defensive player inserted into the offense when CB Patrick Peterson ran for 17 yards in the Cardinals first offensive series of the game.

The secondary was able to hold the Cardinals to just 140 passing yards and limited All-Pro WR Larry Fitzgerald to just 1 catch for 4 yards, while Early Doucet had 3 grabs for 21 yards and TE Todd Heap led the team with 62 receiving yards on 5 catches.

For what it’s worth you can’t blame the defense for this loss; even though Arizona was 2 for 2 in the red zone one of the TD’s was a result of the blocked punt.

News and Notes

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick conducted his day after media briefing.

QB Tom Brady had his weekly call in to Patriots Monday with Dennis & Callahan. (WEEI)

WR Wes Welker broke the franchise record for catches on Sunday and he was on Patriots Monday with Mut and Merloni (WEEI)

Special Teams warnings ring true (ESPN Boston)

Offensive snaps by skill players vs. Cardinals (ESPN Boston)

Defensive snaps played vs. Arizona (ESPN Boston)

K Stephen Gostkowski on the game ending miss (ESPN Boston)

Belichick has little to offer on Hernandez and Welker (Boston Globe)

The breakdown on the surprising home loss (Boston Globe)

Five takeaways from the Cardinals game (Boston Globe)

Ron Borges on the Patriots-Cardinals matchup (Boston Herald)

Best and Worst of Cardinals-Patriots (Boston Herald)

Multitude of mistakes leads to Patriots loss (Boston Herald)

The Patriots are 67-14 at home in the regular season since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002.

Against the NFC the Patriots are 18-3 at home since 2002.

New England is 3-2 vs. Cardinals at home, 2-1 since they moved to Arizona and 1-1 at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots have won 15 of their last 18 home openers.

New England is 10-1 in Gillette Stadium home openers.

Arizona leads the overall series between the teams 7-6.

QB Tom Brady has 303 TD passes in his career he is now 5th all-time.  Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton is 4th with 342.

He is now 13th all-time in passing yards with 40,531.

Brady has thrown at least 1 TD pass in 34 consecutive games.

WR Wes Welker now has catches in 104 consecutive games, 87 as a Patriot.  The last time Welker did not have a catch in a game was 12/24/05 as a Dolphin.

Welker is now the team’s all-time leader in receptions with 562.

TE Aaron Hernandez suffered a low ankle sprain; the x-rays were negative.  He left Gillette Stadium on crutches and in a walking boot.  Most reports have him missing about 4-6 weeks with the injury.  He was scheduled for a MRI on Monday.

Linebacker Jerod Mayo led the team in tackles on Sunday he had 9 in all (4 solo).  LB Brandon Spikes had 7 tackles (5 solo); while DE Chandler Jones and S Steven Gregory each had 5 tackles apiece.

New England recovered two more fumbles on Sunday; one by rookie safety Tavon Wilson and one by DT Vince Wilfork.  They are tied for the team lead with LB Dont’a Hightower with one each.

DE Rob Ninkovich had a sack on Sunday and he leads the team in sacks with one each with LB Jermaine Cunningham and Jones.

The Patriots had 4 tackles for loss in Sunday’s game, one each by Spikes, Jones, Hightower and DE Ron Brace.

Patrick Chung defensed one pass while Jones had 2 quarterback hits and Spikes and Ninkovich each had one apiece.

The Patriots had 2 special teams tackles, DE Trevor Scott and CB Kyle Arrington had them.

The Patriots sacked Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb 1 time, while allowing Brady to be sacked 4 times.

New England’s turnover differential is PLUS 3. The defense has recovered 3 fumble and has 1 INT.  The offense has given away 0 fumbles and has 1 INT.

The Patriots were 1 for 3 in the red zone.  They had 1 TD and 1 FG and were held scoreless once when they missed a field goal.  Arizona was 2 for 2 (100%) in the red zone scoring 2 TD’s, 0 FG’s and were not held scoreless.

New England was 5 for 15 (33.3%) on third down conversions and 0 for 0 on 4th down attempts.  The Cardinals were 4 for 14 (29%) on 3rd down conversions and 0 for 0 on 4th down attempts.

Next Game

The Patriots visit the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore MD.  Kick off is at 8:20 p.m. on NBC.

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