Tag:Matt Light
Posted on: February 24, 2012 6:30 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 7:37 pm
 

Gronkowski talks about post-Super Bowl partying

Gronk on dancing after Super Bowl loss: 'It is what it is.' (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)

By Ryan Wilson

It's been almost three weeks since the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. Which means it's been almost three weeks since Rob Gronkowski and Matt Light were caught on video dancing their troubles away at a postgame party.

Most people didn't have an issue with how Gronk chose to deal with defeat (even if it included taking his shirt off -- in public, no less!). He's a grown man and the season was over. NBC NFL analyst and former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison wasn't one of those people. He breathlessly proclaimed that Gronkowski had "disrespected himself" before adding “I guarantee you this, if Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Larry Izzo, Richard Seymour or myself had been at that party, [Gronkowski] probably would have got his head rung. There’s no reason for that to happen.”

Settle down, Rodney.

Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was more reasoned in his response, saying that “One thing I do know is the guy is 100 percent a passionate when it comes to football. He loves football. He wants to win. He doesn’t like losing. I don’t know specifically what people are questioning, but he’s an ultimate competitor.”

And now, finally, Gronkowski has weighed in. The tight end, who had surgery on his ankle on Feb. 10, hadn't spoken about any of this publicly until Friday.

“It is what it is,” Gronkowski said during an appearance on 97.5 in Philadelphia (via PFT). “We were just having fun with my brothers and stuff . . . family I haven’t seen in a while . . . and the chance of hanging out with LMFAO was pretty cool too. . . . Unfortunately we didn’t win and that was the number 1 goal.”

So there you go, Rodney. It is ... what it is. Hope that clears things up for you.

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Posted on: February 8, 2012 11:56 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 2:50 pm
 

Harrison: Gronkowski 'disrespected himself'

Gronkowski was a maniac on the floor. Harrison did not approve. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)

By Ryan Wilson

There was plenty of blame to go around In the hours and days following the Patriots loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. For the most part, it seemed like a collective knee-jerk reaction from media and fans (and family members) not accustomed to losing. Of course, this is what happens when the hometown team wins three Super Bowls in five seasons and Tom Brady begins his postseason career by going 10-0.

NFL Offseason Begins

Depending on your perspective, any number of people were at fault for the outcome: Brady, Wes Welker, Bill Belichick, the defense and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was limited by a high-ankle sprain.

But it wasn't Gronkowski's lack of production, or even that he didn't battle Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn for a Brady arm punt that became an interception that upset his critics. It was his after-game exploits that got some folks worked into a lather.

In case you missed it, Gronkowski, along with teammate Matt Light, were spotted dancing (topless, no less!) at an Super Bowl party hours after the game.

Scandalous, we know.

(If the sarcasm dripping off that last sentence isn't obvious enough, we'll just repeat what we said on the Pick-6 Podcast: what's Gronkowski supposed to do? Sit in his room and cry himself to sleep? Will that make him a better player for the Pats' next game in six months? No? So what's the problem then?)

This makes no difference to NBC analyst and former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who is very upset with Gronk's decision to gyrate his hips after a loss.

“I guarantee you this, if Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Larry Izzo, Richard Seymour or myself had been at that party, [Gronkowski] probably would have got his head rung,” Harrison told ESPN 1000 in Chicago (via PFT). “There’s no reason for that to happen.”

Oh god. Nothing like an old-timer invoking old times. Yes, Rodney, we know. You had to walk 10 miles to practice, uphill each way, you didn't have shoes and it always snowed.

(Worth mentioning: back in September, the aforementioned Bruschi happily called out Chad Ochocinco for tweeting. We have yet to hear his mock outrage over Gronkowski blowing off steam early Monday morning.)

Harrison wasn't done. 

“When we lost the Super Bowl, any of my Super Bowl losses, I was so devastated the last thing I ever wanted to do was party, let alone dance or take off your shirt,” Harrison said. “It’s just immaturity. It’s not right. He made a mistake and I’m sure he feels absolutely stupid about it at this point. There’s a time and place for everything.”

Rodney's right: there is a time and place for everything. Time: after the season is over -- check. Place: party where music is played and dancing is encouraged -- check.

This is almost as ridiculous as Gronkowki having to apologize for having his picture taken with a porn star. Almost.

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Posted on: February 6, 2012 8:02 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 12:43 pm
 

VIDEO: Light, Gronk dance at Pats SB party

Gronk and Light break it down at the Pats Super Bowl party. (Deadspin.com)
By Will Brinson

On Sunday night about 1:30 a.m. ET, the EoF crew walked past Victory Field in Indianapolis, headed home from Lucas Oil Stadium. It was straight bumping. This morning we asked a member of the Indy Super Bowl Host Committee what was going on there and were informed it was the Patriots Super Bowl party.

With those dots connected, it's a little more awkward to see the report on Deadspin.com that Rob Gronkowski and Matt Light were dancing shirtless on the stage with LMFAO. Well, Gronk wasn't shirtless in the DJ Pauley D-style fist-pumping going on above. But he did get shirtless later. (Reportedly?)

Yo Soy Fiesta indeed. (Deadspin.com)

This is the definition of "Yo Soy Fiesta" and it also reportedly occurred during the LMFAO set. (We were told the same thing Deadspin was -- that Earth, Wind and Fire played along with Steven Tyler, the aforementioned LMFAO and Pauley D, and Maroon 5.) It's also exactly the way we'd expect Gronk to celebrate.

We're not so sure that this is the kind of thing the Patriots should take flak for though. Is it somewhat insulting to the idea of how players should take a loss at this level to see two of them shirtless dancing on the stage just hours after a huge loss at the highest level? Perhaps.

But if you think that dancing like this means that Gronkowski and Light don't care about the loss to the Giants, well, you're just wrong. They're professional football players. Light's a three-time Super Bowl champion. Gronkowski played in the Super Bowl two weeks after a high-ankle sprain.

They might not be acting like Wes Welker was late on Sunday night, but it's also not illegal to dance at a Super Bowl party. Getting your picture taken isn't a smart idea, but it's no dumber than having a party at Victory Field after losing the Super Bowl.

And for those who like to watch moving pictures, here are two videos (though Gronk is shirtless in exactly zero of them).





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Posted on: January 29, 2012 12:54 am
 

Super Bowl XLVI Preview: Patriots O vs. Giants D

Breaking news: Brady is key to the Pats winning. (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

It’s this side of the matchup that makes Super Bowl XLVI so compelling. New England’s juggernaut offense against the league’s best four-man pass-rush. Here’s the breakdown.



1. Relevance of rematch factor
What happened in Super Bowl XLII has virtually no bearing on this game. Yes, that game was decided by New York’s front four getting pressure on Tom Brady. And yes, front-four pressure will play a huge role in this Sunday’s game. But the pressure in Super Bowl XLII was schematically generated by the Giants’ inside blitzes (both feigned and real).

This approach compelled the Patriots’ help-blockers to work inside, leaving one-on-one matchups for defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora outside. This was a brilliant strategy by Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo because it punished Brady for taking seven-step drops. Those seven-step drops were obligatory in an ’07 Patriots offense that was built around the vertical prowess of Randy Moss.

But as mentioned, that gameplan is now irrelevant, as the ’11 Patriots are built around the horizontal prowess of Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. What IS relevant is the gameplan the Giants had in Week 9 when they went into Foxboro and forced four turnovers en route to a rare Patriots home loss.

New York’s Week 9 gameplan centered around physical coverage behind a four-man pass-rush. No surprise – that’s how the Giants are built to play. What’s important is to understand HOW the Giants executed this gameplan.

Considering New York’s personnel is basically the same now as it was in Week 9 (only better), there’s no reason to think they won’t go with the same approach again. Let’s dissect that approach.

2. The four-man rush
One thing that sets the Giant’s four-man rush apart – besides an insane collection of talent – is its mismatch-creating versatility. The Giants have used 27 different front four alignments this postseason.

Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul can both slide inside and work against overmatched guards (and every NFL guard, even Pro Bowlers like Logan Mankins and Brian Waters, is overmatched against athletes like JPP and Tuck). They can align linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka anywhere up front. They have a beastly all-around force in Chris Canty (and for what it’s worth, a solid duo of rotating run-stoppers next to him in Rocky Bernard and the underrated Linval Joseph).

Most quality four-man pass-rushes have guys who are either speedy or powerful; Pierre-Paul, Tuck, Kiwanuka and, by defensive tackle standards, Canty, are all speedy AND powerful. This is what creates their versatility, and it’s also what allows the Giants front four to tee-off rushing the passer without becoming vulnerable to the run.

Expect the Giants to jumble their front four looks as much as possible. They also might walk linebackers up to the line of scrimmage just to give Brady and his linemen something to think about. As we talked about last week, the key to beating Brady is to not just get pressure on him, but to make him consciously worry about his protection.

3. New England’s response to New York’s D-line
The Patriots, like 30 other NFL teams, will have their hands full with many of the individual front line matchups against New York. For an elite left guard, Logan Mankins can be surprisingly iffy in protection sometimes. Left tackle Matt Light often rises to the occasion against top-shelf speed-rushers, but it’s a lot to ask of the 33-year-old to block Osi Umenyiora on an island. On the right side, tackle Nate Solder struggled in pass protection last week against Baltimore.

In Week 9, the Patriots were obviously concerned about one-on-one situations in the trenches. They used six or seven offensive linemen on 20 snaps. In the first half, they often kept Gronkowski and, at times even de facto wide receiver Hernandez, in to pass-block. Don’t expect them to do that as much this time around.

New England’s offense has become even more spread-oriented, which means more pass-rush nullifying three-and five-step drop passes. Because of the skill players’ versatility, the hurry-up has become the Patriots’ main offensive attack. Expect them to use frequent hurry up in order to prevent the Giants from rotating defensive linemen.

The Patriots will likely go with their two-receivers, two-tight ends, one-back personnel, and they’ll have different groups of plays already packaged for whatever personnel the Giants defense responds with. A hurry-up will keep the same defensive personnel on the field for an entire series, forcing the 270-plus-pound D-linemen to play snap after snap after snap without rest. The hope is this wears the defense down late in the series and late in the game.

It’s vital that the Patriots win the battle on first and second down. Doing so makes the hurry-up offense more vibrant and, obviously, mitigates the substantial pass-rushing advantage that New York has on third-and-long. Winning on first and second down is hard to do consistently without running the ball at least a little. This is why New England will likely go with the 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) as opposed to their new 02 personnel package (zero backs, two tight ends, three wide receivers).

Then again, Hernandez has been a surprisingly adroit ballcarrier ... perhaps a no-running back grouping is indeed viable. Or given that they’ve had an extra week to prepare, perhaps the Patriots will debut an all new offensive wrinkle (like they did after their last bye, with the Hernandez backfield packages in the divisional round against Denver).

4. New York’s coverage
The advantage of getting pressure with four is having seven guys to crowd the field in coverage. Few back sevens are as well-equipped to defend the Patriots’ pass game as the Giants’. They have athletic pass-defending linebackers (Michael Boley and Jacquian Williams) who can play laterally. More importantly, those linebackers can exert brutish force against any receivers running shallow inside routes. Those shallow inside routes are the backbone of New England’s passing attack.

The Giants also have versatile safeties who can (maybe) hang with Gronkowski and Hernandez. Deon Grant did a fabulous job on Gronk in Week 9 (he had a great pick in underneath coverage, and overall, Gronkowski’s impact was not as pronounced as his 101 yards suggested).

Antrel Rolle doesn’t run extremely well, but he’s agile enough to compete with Hernandez. In Week 9 Hernandez had not yet blossomed into the über-versatile weapon that he is today. So, Rolle actually spent most of that contest defending Wes Welker in the slot. Rolle got beat late a few times but also made some physical plays in the first half.

Physicality is a key concept. The Giants have capable press corners in Corey Webster and Aaron Ross. Webster is an outside defender who normally shadows the opposing team’s top receiver. Because Welker so often aligns in the slot, and because Deion Branch is not worth putting your best cover guy on, expect Webster to draw a litany of different matchups out wide. Same goes for Ross, who is actually more likely than Webster to cover Welker in the slot.

The Giants played more press-man than usual against the Patriots, and with good success. In the four games in which New England’s offense struggled the most this season, Brady’s completion percentage barely topped 50 when facing safety-help man coverage.

5. New England’s response
The Patriots know that aggressive press coverage can really disrupt the timing of their routes – an especially dubious scenario given that many of their routes are synched with other routes. Expect the go-to receiver to line up off the line of scrimmage as a means of creating more initial spacing (which makes it hard for a defender to deliver a jam). This could mean Welker in the slot, Hernandez in the slot or backfield, Branch in motion, etc. Play action could also take away inside help early in the routes, which bodes well for Welker:

This is an illustration of great route combinations. “Route combinations” refers to how one receiver’s route works hand-in-hand with another receiver’s route to exploit a specific coverage. This play shows a somewhat unusual case of an offense creating throwing lanes against man coverage with space-oriented route combinations (as opposed to regular man-beaters like pick plays, bunches or double crossing patterns).

It’s second-and-five. The Patriots are in a 1 x 2 set out of 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends). Judging by the cornerbacks, the Giants are in man coverage. This is confirmed when Rob Gronkowski goes in motion and Deon Grant follows him.

The matchup Tom Brady likes is Wes Welker against safety Antrel Rolle in the slot. Welker is going to run a deep cross. This is somewhat of a tendency-breaker, as most would expect Welker to run a shallow cross on second-and-five.

The primary intent of Gronkowski’s motion is NOT to verify the coverage, it’s to balance the formation and ensure that Grant will play close to the line of scrimmage. If he’s near the line, he’ll be unable to drop off Gronkowski and jump Welker’s route over the middle.

Don’t be surprised if the Patriots have their tight ends or running backs run patterns outside the numbers while the receivers run patterns inside. This would put pressure on the linebackers and safeties to play with more speed than power and make it more difficult for corners to count on a little help over the shallow middle (which most corners need). These inside-outside crossing elements are also natural man coverage beaters, which the Patriots must rely on.

Because Brady runs like he’s wearing ski boots, defenses facing New England don’t have to commit a linebacker to shadowing the quarterback. Thus, they essentially have one extra player at their disposal. The Patriots mitigate this defensive advantage by crafting creative route design concepts:

Upon the snap, there are two key elements:

1. Welker is coming out of the slot, not off the line of scrimmage. Thus, he has about two yards between him and Rolle, which is enough to prevent Rolle from exerting a physical jam.

2. Brady fakes a handoff to Danny Woodhead. This slows the pass-rush just enough to give Welker the time needed to execute his deep cross. More importantly, it distracts linebackers Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley. They might be in a man-read assignment, meaning if Woodhead goes right, the linebacker to that side (Boley) picks him up. If he goes left, then Kiwanuka picks him up. In that case, the design of the run action was outstanding because, by starting Woodhead on the left side and running him off the fake to the right flat, the attention of both linebackers is drawn. That’s what happened here, as Boley and Kiwanuka both responded to the fake by stepping forward and becoming non-factors in this play.

(Note: It’s also possible that Boley had Woodhead straight-up, with Kiwanuka serving as a free-roaming lurk defender. If that’s the case, then Kiwanuka played this exceptionally poorly.)

Being drawn forward, the linebackers are unable to sense Welker’s crossing route and unable to give Rolle any sort of help inside. Thus, Rolle is caught playing too far outside.

On the left side, Gronkowski ran a very shallow out-route while Chad Ochocinco ran his out towards the sideline. Both of these routes were designed to widen the defense and create a big open gap for Welker.

Overall, this play had a combination of four routes working together: Woodhead’s flat on the right, Gronkowski’s out and Ochocinco’s fly on the left and Welker’s deep cross down the middle. The result: an easy 25-yard completion to arguably the league’s best slot receiver.

Again, the crossing patterns are natural man-beaters. So are bunch and stack alignments, which are great for pushing a defense into off-coverage and creating space for quick-striking throws. These tactics will replace a lot of would-be run plays in New England’s up-tempo offense.

Check our NFL expert picks for all the Super Bowl

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 28, 2012 3:05 pm
 

Umenyiora and Matt Light are not great friends

O. Umenyiora apparently has a problem with M. Light (Getty).

By Josh Katzowitz

Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora is not such a big fan of Patriots left tackle Matt Light.

"I don't know what it is that he does, but it's something that he's doing that really gets under my skin," Umenyiora said, via CSNNE.com. "Because I'm not that type of guy, you know what I mean? He's probably the only person I've ever fought on a football field."

Three times, in fact, the two have squared off on the football field, including the Super Bowl four years ago, and Giants defensive end Justin Tuck likes to needle Umenyiora by saying Light is undefeated against him.

When Patriots guard Brian Waters heard Umenyiora’s analysis about Light, he let out a chuckle. Is Matt Light -- and his teammates -- playing mindgames with the Giants?

“There is a little bit of that but for the most part, it’s a physical game,” Waters said, via the AP. “The mental part is making sure you know who you’re blocking from play to play. For them, they have their own assignments that they have to be accountable to. That’s probably the strongest mental part. All the other itty-bitty games that are played during the course of a game, there’s definitely going to be some of that gamesmanship at some point.”

As for Umenyiora’s plans in the Super Bowl?

"I think [Light is] more important to his team than I am to mine right now," he said, "so if we can both fight, we both get kicked out and [Jean-Pierre Paul] and Tuck will have a field day."

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Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:40 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 9:40 pm
 

Film Room: Patriots vs Broncos divisional preview

Will Gronk get his Gronk on this time around? (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

It was assumed the Patriots would draw a rematch in their divisional round playoff opener. However, most figured that rematch would be of their Week 8 bout with Pittsburgh, not their Week 15 bout with Denver.

Here’s the breakdown of what could turn out to be the highest-rated divisional round Saturday night game of all-time.


1. New England’s plan for Tebow
Something to keep in mind is the Steelers had a sound gameplan last week, playing man coverage and using a tepid pass-rush to ensure that Tim Tebow stayed in the pocket. What the Steelers didn’t count on was Demaryius Thomas being able to get by Ike Taylor and Tebow being able to pull the trigger on downfield throws. Those two young ’10 first-rounders both had career days.

The Patriots might bet that the two youngsters can’t do it again.

On the one hand, that’s a smart bet given that Thomas and Tebow were inconsistent all season (Tebow especially). On the other hand, it’s foolish given that cornerback Kyle Arrington – who would draw the Thomas matchup, as Thomas almost always lines up on the favorable side of the left-handed Tebow – is not half the cover artist Ike Taylor is, and given that logic says if Tebow can win against the man coverage of the league’s best pass defense, he can surely win against the man coverage of the league’s worst pass defense.

In the last meeting, the Patriots played predominant Cover 3 in the first half:

The Broncos had success throwing skinny posts to Tebow’s left against the Patriots Cover 3 defense in the last meeting. Cover 3 is what you’d guess it is: three defensive backs each responsible for a third of the field. Because there is so much field to cover, the outside defensive backs often play man-to-man concepts (as Devin McCourty is doing on the right side). Cover 3 is something defenses play when they blitz or when they want to force a quarterback to throw (it’s the default zone coverage behind an eight-defender box).

In this example, the Patriots were clearly baiting Tebow to throw. Notice there are only five rushers (which is hardly a blitz considering Denver has seven guys in pass protection – the idea was to keep Tebow from scrambling). Also notice how linebacker Dane Fletcher has his back to the quarterback and is running towards the left passing window. (Fletcher was late getting there; Tebow did a good job recognizing the coverage and getting the ball out quickly. The result was a 22-yard completion to Eric Decker.)

The Broncos used great routes for beating this anticipated coverage, but Tebow was unable to connect on some of the throws.

Still, throws against Cover 3 are easier than throws against quality press-man, as long as the pass protection holds up. Denver’s protection was tremendous last week.

If tackles Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin (who may need some help on the right side) can keep speed-rusher Mark Anderson at bay, the Broncos will be golden. (Keeping a backup like Anderson at bay may not sound difficult, but the former Bear was actually very disruptive in the last meeting.)

2. Stop the run!
The Patriots gave up 167 yards rushing in the first quarter of the Week 15 contest. They wound up winning the game handily, but they were on the fortuitous side of a few fumbles.

Common sense says you can’t bank on having success with such porous run defense. The issue last game was outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich’s inability to set the edge and the defensive line’s inability to prevent the Bronco linemen from contacting inside linebackers. This was a problem both with New England’s 3-4 and 4-3 fronts.

Nose tackle Vince Wilfork must stand out more this time around. The Broncos will be willing at times to block him one-on-one with J.D. Walton. The second-year center has been up-and-down (in a good way) handling tough solo assignments against nose tackles down the stretch this season. He was phenomenal against Antonio Garay of the Chargers in Week 12 but had been just so-so the previous week against Sione Pouha of the Jets. In Week 15 he held his own against Wilfork, but in Week 16 he got schooled by Marcell Dareus.
 
If Walton has a strong game, the Broncos can pound the rock inside. If he struggles, Denver’s at least capable of getting to the perimeter, though they’ll miss the fervid blocking of wideout Eric Decker.

3. Defending the Patriots tight ends
Greg Cosell, executive producer of the NFL Matchup Show, did an excellent job breaking down the Week 15 film back in December. Cosell wrote that the Broncos focused their coverages on Rob Gronkowski, successfully disrupting his timing by hitting him at the line of scrimmage.

However, that left fourth-round rookie safety Quinton Carter on Aaron Hernandez. Carter, like the rest of Denver’s safeties, is not great in man coverage, which Hernandez proved by posting what were at the time his career highs in catches (nine) and yards (129).

Though still a little green as a route runner (particularly against zone), Hernandez has the movement skills of a wide receiver. The Broncos may choose to defend him with rising rookie nickel back Chris Harris. That would leave safeties and linebackers to cover Gronkowski.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen may figure he can get away with that as long as coverage linebackers Wesley Woodyard and D.J. Williams are once again physical with the second-year superstar.

The Patriots’ counter to this would be splitting Gronkowski into a slot receiver position (likely in a spread 2 x 2 or 3 x 2 set), where he could line up a few yards off the line and operate against an overwhelmed defender in space. Even if the Broncos decided to sacrifice their run defense by going with dime personnel against the two tight ends, they still would be overmatched.

After all, just because Jonathan Wilhite is a corner doesn’t mean he can cover Gronkowski. This is the problem New England’s offense poses, this is why the Patriots are the No. 1 seed.

4. If lightning strikes twice ...
As the tight end analysis just suggested, the Broncos are faced with a very serious matchup problem that can only be solved by their players rising up and doing things no one thought they could do. It’s improbable, but as Denver’s offense showed last week, not impossible.

So let’s say for the sake of extra analysis that the Broncos can stop Gronkowski and Hernandez with their inside pass defenders. That leaves outside corners Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman on Wes Welker and Deion Branch (who did not play in the last matchup).

If the Broncos want to avoid the matchup problems that New England’s flexible formations create (such as Welker working against a linebacker in the slot), they’ll have to play man-to-man, with Bailey assigned on Welker and Goodman on Branch. Those aren’t bad matchups for either side – it would come down to who executes better (general rule of thumb, over the course of 60 minutes, put your money on the offense).

What we’re not considering is New England’s ability to run the ball. They’re not known for that, but against nickel or dime defense, they’re capable of controlling the game the old fashioned way.

Danny Woodhead has great lateral agility. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a steady, highly professional runner. Of course, he may lose snaps to the more dynamic Stevan Ridley, a third-round rookie who has come on as of late. The Patriots have an excellent run-blocking front five with LG Logan Mankins being a premier puller, RG Brian Waters a shrewd playside anchor, LT Matt Light a crafty angles-creator (including at the second level) and RT Nate Solder a ridiculous athlete out in front.

5. Broncos pass-rush slowing down?
Pass-rush pressure is always a prerequisite for beating Tom Brady. Lately, the Patriots have nullified it with an increased emphasis on three-and five-step drops. Brady is especially sharp at this when working out of an empty backfield.

The Broncos have not had the most fervid pass-rush the last month anyway. They sacked Brady just twice in Week 15. They got Ryan Fitzpatrick just once the next week and Kyle Orton once in the season finale. They got to Ben Roethlisberger in the wild card round but that’s a product of Roethlisberger’s style of play. Denver’s pass-rush did not control the flow of last Saturday’s game. Von Miller has had just one sack since his first game back from a thumb injury (December 11 at Minnesota) and has been less explosive playing with a cast.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all divisional-round games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 24, 2011 2:37 pm
 

Dolphins surprise punchless Pats, up 17-0 at half

Miami is having no problems with New England so far today (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

It has not been a good day for the Patriots. First, they lost left tackle Matt Light to an ankle injury in warm-ups (!) and then, his replacement, Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins, injured his knee in the first quarter.

The Dolphins have not been very forgiving.

With New England having the ability to clinch a first-round playoff bye with a win vs. Miami, the Dolphins are the only ones who seem to care about winning today, taking a 17-0 lead into halftime.

Reggie Bush, in going over the 1,000-yard mark on the season, has 16 carries for 81 yards, while quarterback Matt Moore has thrown for 179 yards and two touchdown passes. Meanwhile, the Patriots rush game has been anemic (33 yards), and Tom Brady has been less than mediocre, completing 7 of 19 passes for 87 yards.

While the Dolphins began playing better earlier this season once it was clear former coach Tony Sparano would not return, they’ve obviously saved their best for interim coach Todd Bowles against perhaps the best team in the AFC (though I’m not sure a “best team” in that conference even exists).

 “I don’t have any expectations, really,” Bowles said earlier this week. “I’m just trying to get the guys to play hard and play better and play fast and try to come out with wins.”

His team is halfway there.


Follow all the Week 16 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

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CLE-BAL | DEN-BUF | TB-CAR | ARI-CIN | OAK-KC | MIA-NE | NYG-NYJ | STL-PIT | JAC-TEN | MIN-WAS

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Posted on: December 24, 2011 1:54 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Patriots offensive line injured and in turmoil

MankinsBy Josh Katzowitz

With the playoffs coming soon, this is a bad time for the Patriots to lose multiple men off the offensive line. But today, that’s exactly what’s happened only a quarter into their game with the Dolphins.

Starting left tackle Matt Light was a surprising (and late) deactivation today after suffering an ankle injury in warmups, and left guard Logan Mankins, one of the best in the league, replaced him on the end of the line. But in the first quarter, Mankins hurt his left knee and left the game. He is questionable to return.

Already, New England -- which has fallen behind 10-0 -- was without right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, and now, the Patriots have to play with rookies Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder on the line.

After he got hurt, trainers looked at Mankins’ leg on the sideline, and during the course of their examination, Mankins took off his pants on the bench. Whatever that means, it’s probably not a great sign.


Follow all the Week 16 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
CLE-BAL | DEN-BUF | TB-CAR | ARI-CIN | OAK-KC | MIA-NE | NYG-NYJ | STL-PIT | JAC-TEN | MIN-WAS

4 p.m. ET games:
SD-DET | PHI-DAL | SF-SEA




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