|10-12-2005, 08:11 AM||#1|
Never say Always
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PATRIOTS-FALCONS: Report Cards
PatriotsInsider.com Oct 11, 2005
The battle between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots was a display of offensive play making and defensive susceptibility. Both teams ran well and passed well, but their defenses let them down when it mattered most. The outcome was determined by the team who had the ball last, and that proved to be the Patriots. Here are Scout's team grades unit-by-unit for both teams.
PHOTO: Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Schaub (8) scrambles against the New England Patriots Oct 9, 2005. Schaub started against the Patriots with Michael Vick out. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)
PATRIOTS-FALCONS: Report Cards
By Site Staff
PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. FALCONS
PASSING OFFENSE: A-plus -- After a miserable second half against San Diego the previous week, Tom Brady (22-of-27, 350 yards, 3 TDs, INT) was magnificent, posting his fourth-highest career passer rating (140.4), second-best career completion percentage (81.5) and seventh-highest yardage total. He rediscovered his tight ends -- Dan Graham (five catches for 119 yards) was the star -- threw the deep ball expertly and strafed Atlanta's secondary for passes covering 55, 51, 45, 45 and 33 yards. Brady's 22 completions were spread around to nine different players -- five receivers, two tight ends and two running backs. The lone mistake was a third-quarter interception on a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. The turnover ended up sparking Atlanta's comeback.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Corey Dillon (23 carries, 106 yards) finally cracked the 100-yard barrier for the first time this season. He was averaging 3.1 yards per carry coming in, but operated at a 4.6-yard clip this time. The best news of all -- the Patriots eliminated the negative plays that had been haunting the running game. Thanks to some strong supporting work from the tight ends, the offensive line won the battles up front. With a full head of steam hitting the line of scrimmage, Dillon gained 5 or more yards on 12 of his 23 attempts. He had had only 18 such runs over the first four games.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Patriots made backup Matt Schaub (18-of-34, 298 yards, 3 TDs, no INTs) look like a Pro Bowler. They applied pressure -- their three sacks were three more than they had against San Diego the previous week -- but tight end Alge Crumpler (six catches for 99 yards) and receiver Brian Finneran (5-103) were problem match-ups all day. No interceptions again. The Patriots are still stuck on one for the season, while opposing quarterbacks have thrown 10 TDs against them.
RUN DEFENSE: B -- The Falcons had rushed for 200, 115, 236 and 285 yards in their first four games. The Patriots limited them to 116, although Atlanta did average 4.5 yards per carry without Michael Vick providing his usual threat. The lone negative -- on the tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, the Falcons ran four times for 30 yards, including a 13-yard gain by Warrick Dunn (19 carries for 83 yards) that brought the ball into the red zone.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Bethel Johnson's solid 30-yard kickoff return to the Patriots' 36-yard line put Brady in good position to start the winning drive with 3:47 left in regulation. Adam Vinatieri's winning field goal was the 19th of his career in the late stages of the fourth quarter or in overtime. The Patriots had no huge plays in the return game, but neither did the Falcons, unless you count Allen Rossum's 50-yard punt return in the second quarter that was nullified by a penalty. The Patriots were particularly good covering kickoffs, limiting Atlanta to a 19.8-yard average, and a long of 23.
COACHING: A -- Coach Bill Belichick has a knack for pushing the correct motivational buttons. This time was no exception, as the tape of the 1985 Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns boxing match he showed them the night before the game was the perfect analogy for the against-the-ropes situation the team found itself in. Getting the tight ends involved energized the offense, and once again, the Patriots were up to the task in crunch time. Much of their success there -- Brady is 21-2 for his career in games decided by six or fewer points -- can be attributed to their preparation, which reflects well on the coaches. The problems in the secondary must be addressed next.
FALCONS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Credit QB Matt Schaub with raising the bar of the air attack and for not caving in while WRs Dez White and Michael Jenkins were dropping balls. Schaub showed poise and steadiness. Brian Finneran and Alge Crumpler made some great catches.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- RBs Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett combined for 113 yards and seven first downs. Sure, Atlanta was far off its league-leading 209 average, but that figure is unsustainable. The offense played well enough to win.
PASS DEFENSE: D-minus -- This performance was nothing short of disgraceful as LCB DeAngelo Hall, RCB Jason Webster, FS Bryan Scott and SS Keion Carpenter displayed poor technique and a surprisingly sudden ineptitude to read New England's formations and tendencies.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Corey Dillon joined Shaun Alexander and Willis McGahee on the list of elite players to embarrass Atlanta on the ground. Dillon's performance spoke to poor fundamentals, particularly in linebackers getting off blocks and making plays. Strong-side starter Demorrio Williams had easily the worst game of his two-year career.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Props to Michael Koenen for hitting a 58-yard field goal right before halftime and making a tackle after coverage broke down on a kickoff. Koenen, an undrafted rookie punter-kicker, shored up the disastrous afternoon by punt returner Allen Rossum. The punt coverage was excellent.
COACHING: C-minus -- After saying that the Falcons faced the ultimate challenge to match wits against Bill Belichick & Co., head coach Jim Mora and his staff were embarrassed by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the first and third quarters. The defense, in particular, was atrocious.
|10-12-2005, 08:19 AM||#2|
Never say Always
Join Date: Jan 2003
John Lynch a Patriot?
Lynch caught their eye
He and Patriots huddled in '03
By Mike Reiss, Globe Staff | October 12, 2005
FOXBOROUGH -- When John Lynch was a free agent after the 2003 season, he was courted by the Broncos, Patriots, and Jets. Could the hard-hitting safety have envisioned himself in New England?
''It came close," said Lynch, who visited Gillette Stadium for a physical and met with owner Robert Kraft, vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, and the coaching staff (minus Bill Belichick, who was on vacation).
Lynch said concerns over a neck injury ultimately might have cooled the Patriots' interest. The 13-year veteran signed with the Broncos, who face the Patriots this Sunday.
The Patriots were coming off their victory over the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII and Lynch remembers asking why they were interested in him, with Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson returning.
''Coach Belichick's answer to that was that when good football players become available, they find places for them to play," Lynch said.
Lynch, who has been compared with Harrison because of his bone-crunching hits, sent a note to the injured Harrison through Patriots trainer Jim Whalen. Lynch knows Whalen from their time together with the Buccaneers, and he respects Harrison's contributions to the game.
''It was a sad day for me," Lynch said. ''I just wanted to communicate to him that I love the way he plays the game. I hope whatever is in his best interests happens for him. If his career is over, he's had a tremendous run."
Light stays hopeful
Offensive tackle Matt Light spoke with reporters yesterday for the first time since breaking the fibula in his right leg. He had a cast around the lower part of his right leg that extended to his toes.
Asked whether he'll return this season, Light said, ''I hope so. I can't ever say for certain when you have an injury. But I would love to have the ability to do that."
Light said he had no timetable for how long he'd be sidelined.
On rookie Nick Kaczur's performance in his absence, he said, ''He's done a great job. I've watched him out there, and you talk about playing in some of the toughest conditions you can possibly imagine. You're on the road, No. 1. You're a young guy, No. 2, and you haven't experienced a lot of what the league can throw at you. I had to deal with that. I know what he's going through and it's not an easy situation. I think he's handled it really well."
Light hasn't spent much time in Foxborough since suffering the injury against the Steelers Sept. 25. But he's not surprised at how the team has responded.
''What goes on in our locker room, nobody really knows," he said. ''Those guys have all been there before, they've dealt with a lot of adversity, and we've played through a lot of things in the years past.
''I think people draw on that. I think a lot of the guys that have been there -- and the guys who really lead the team -- they know how to get the guys' mind-set right and how to bounce back after a loss.
''It's tough, it's tough to do when you have a situation like this with so many injuries. At the same time, there's no other place to go. There's nothing else you can do, you have to play with what you've got. Those are all great players. They all work hard, and I have a lot of faith in them to go out and do what it takes."
Poole feels ready
Cornerback Tyrone Poole, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury since starting the season opener against the Raiders, said he could have played against the Falcons.
''I told Bill and the trainers I could go now," he said. ''But they didn't want to do anything to hurt the team."
Poole said his ankle responded well to returning to the practice field last week. Now, with the bye week coming after Sunday's game in Denver, the team must weigh two factors in activating Poole. While his return would provide a jolt to a secondary in need of help, the chance to give his ankle two more weeks of rest might have greater long-term benefits.
Asked what he'd tell fans curious about his recovery, Poole said, ''Tell them I'm doing excellent."
On the plane ride home after the Patriots' win over the Falcons, rookie nose tackle Mike Wright was congratulated by fourth-year lineman Jarvis Green. The two talked for nearly an hour after Wright was in for eight plays (mostly on third down), marking the most extensive action of his young career.
Wright said what Green did is commonplace around the locker room. He then rattled off other examples of teammates taking him under his wing:
Vince Wilfork invited him to his home in preseason to break up the monotony of training camp; Marquise Hill showed him around the Foxborough area in his first week with the team, then Dan Klecko did the same; Rodney Harrison talked to him on cut-down weekend about not getting a big head about making the team; Willie McGinest pulled him aside at practice to tutor him on one of the finer points of the game.
''Guys have gone out of their way to help out," he said. ''I talk to other guys I played with in college and they tell me it's not like that everywhere.
''Guys like me, you count your blessings. Each week I'm here, it's a great weight off my shoulders."
Tricky on Vick
NFC information manager Michael Signora said the Falcons didn't violate the league's injury policy with quarterback Michael Vick, who was probable for three days, then downgraded to questionable Saturday. Vick didn't play against the Patriots, but Signora said the Falcons followed the league's rules, noting that Vick was reported to have missed portions of practice each day.
Interesting comment by Falcons coach Jim Mora Monday when asked by Atlanta reporters if he'd decided who would practice today:
''No. I will tell you Wednesday. I have to believe that Michael made progress. We will see if it is enough in my opinion to play him. He will work out today. I am sure he will do some stuff tomorrow, and we should have a good feel Wednesday. Of course, I told you that last week, too. Why would you ever believe me right now? I wouldn't. I don't want you to, though."
Running back Corey Dillon, who didn't finish Sunday's game against the Falcons, walked through the locker room without trouble Monday and doesn't appear to have sustained a serious injury . . . Linebacker Eric Alexander, who was activated off the practice squad prior to Sunday's game, was waived yesterday, a possible sign that linebacker Matt Chatham is recovering from a knee injury. Chatham did not play against the Falcons. Little-known fact about Alexander: Late last season, the Packers wanted to sign him off the Patriots' practice squad, but he said he declined the offer . . . When Belichick spoke of a ''good operation" on Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal against the Falcons, what exactly did he mean? With the snap, hold, and kick, the Patriots want the entire process to take 1.3-1.4 seconds, according to long snapper Lonie Paxton.
The Patriots worked out some free agent defensive backs yesterday, including Hank Poteat, Arturo Freeman, Mario Edwards, Terrell Buckley, Aaron Beasley, and Rod Babers. Poteat played with the Patriots at the end of the 2004 season, and Buckley was with the club from 2001-02. The team has an open roster spot after waiving Alexander . . . The Patriots worked out former Broncos running back Quinton Griffin and quarterback Todd Mortensen Monday.
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