Patriots Report Card: Week 3

It doesn't happen often, but Brady's four interceptions Sunday against the Bills cost the Patriots more than poor play by anyone else. (AP Photo/Derek Gee)

Welcome back to Goose’s Gabs’ weekly report card for the New England Patriots. Well, Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills was a stinker of historic proportions. The Patriots blew a 21-point lead, Tom Brady threw four picks, Bill Belichick somehow wasted a crucial timeout in the final minute of the game, and the Patriots lost, 34-31. Here’s our take on who deserves a lot of the blame for the Patriots’ first loss to the Bills in 16 games, and who only deserves a little.

Quarterback: D+

Very rarely can we say this, but this time it’s the truth: Brady killed the Patriots Sunday. Four touchdowns and 387 passing yards are great, but every interception proved costly and could have been avoided. The first came on an ill-advised floater to a running back in the flat, killing a drive at the Buffalo 37. The resultant Buffalo field goal completed at least a six-point swing and showed the Bills they could win. The second interception – thrown into very tight coverage over the middle – ruined a great chance for the Patriots to re-seize momentum early in the third. The third – a telegraphed play that safety George Wilson read easily and undercut – ended a drive well into field goal range and led to the Bills’ tying the game. And the fourth gave the Bills the lead.

Brady’s number of games this poor can be counted on one hand, but there’s no way around his poor decision-making’s role in the Patriots loss. He put up big numbers, but he made bigger mistakes.

Continue reading Patriots Report Card: Week 3

Patriots Report Card: Week 2

Deion Branch's eight-catch, 129-yard game highlighted a terrific Week 2 performance from the Patriots receivers, who caught 28 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Welcome back to Goose’s Gabs’ weekly report card for your New England Patriots. After a record-setting offensive explosion in Week 1, the Patriots continued their near-unstoppable passing attack Sunday, beating the Chargers 35-21. So who stood out and who hung back? Read on and find out!

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady followed his record-setting game against the Dolphins with another record-setting game against the Chargers. Throwing for 423 yards, Brady’s two-week total of 940 passing yards broke the record set earlier Sunday by the Panthers’ Cam Newton. Brady completed 77.5 percent of his passes, including converting five of the Patriots’ seven third downs. His three-touchdown, zero-interception day earned him a 135.7 rating, and he completed passes to seven different receivers.

Running Backs: B+

Three Patriots running backs combined for 91 yards and a touchdown. BenJarvus Green-Ellis‘ 16-yard score late in the game following a Chargers fumble turned what could have been a 28-28 tie into a 35-21 almost-insurmountable Patriots lead. Green-Ellis led the team with 70 yards on 17 carries, doing most of the damage in the second half. Danny Woodhead was rarely used Sunday, but ran in a matter-of-fact two-point conversion in the third to give the Patriots a 28-14 lead. Stevan Ridley got his first two NFL carries, averaging 4.5 yards per play and displaying the spinning agility that dazzled Patriots fans during preseason.

Continue reading Patriots Report Card: Week 2

Patriots Report Card: Week 1

Tom Brady's record-setting 517 passing yards and four touchdown throws highlighted an A-level offensive performance against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Welcome to Goose’s Gabs’ weekly report card for your New England Patriots! Each week I’ll analyze every Patriots position group, identifying particularly noteworthy performances from the previous week’s game.

In their 38-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, the Patriots answered many of the questions fans had about the offense entering Week 1. Between 622 total offensive yards, 38 points, and 27 first downs on 8-for-13 third-down efficiency, few can still worry about this team’s ability to score points. Their ability to prevent points is another question, but for now all is well in New England.

So let’s play teacher and hand out some grades!

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady set both a Patriots and Monday Night Football record with 517 passing yards. Only four other quarterbacks have ever racked up more passing yards in a game, and none since 1996. Coupled with a 66.7 completion percentage and four touchdown passes, it’s impossible to give Brady anything other than a straight A. His third-quarter interception allowed Miami to tie the game, but even that couldn’t keep him from a 121.6 QB rating. Although one game is too early to tell, Brady certainly looks poised for another big year, able to throw the ball short and deep, over the middle and to the sidelines.

Continue reading Patriots Report Card: Week 1

Patriots-Dolphins: Ranking Tom Brady’s Trips to Miami

The Patriots are 5-5 in Miami during the Tom Brady Era. Brady's best game came on Oct. 21, 2007, in which he passed for 354 yards and a whopping six touchdowns. (AP Photo/Hans Deryk)

The 2011 New England Patriots season kicks off with a trip to Sun Life Stadium to play the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. The Patriots have played 10 games in Miami during the Tom Brady era (including the 2008 season in which Brady played just one game), so how could we not do a Top 10 as part of our pre-game festivities?

Here’s how the last 10 Patriots-Dolphins road games stack up against each other:

10. Dolphins 21, Patriots 0 – Dec. 10, 2006

The Patriots’ 2006 game in Miami was one of just two Patriots shutouts that Brady has ever played, and Brady went 12-for-25 for just 78 yards in this one. He threw no interceptions, but he fumbled the ball twice, one of which the Dolphins recovered. The Patriots fumbled away three possessions total. The offensive line also couldn’t stop the Dolphins’ elite pass-rush, allowing five sacks and keeping the Patriots offense from ever developing any rhythm. Future-Patriot Sammy Morris rushed for 123 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the Dolphins a three-possession lead with less than a quarter to play.

Continue reading Patriots-Dolphins: Ranking Tom Brady’s Trips to Miami

Patriots Look to Wrap Up Preseason Against Giants

Wes Welker may have scored a touchdown against the Lions, but his neck injury will likely keep him and most of the other Patriot starters from Thursday's preseason finale against the Giants. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

The 2-1 New England Patriots will finish their preseason Thursday night at Gillette against the 2-0 New York Giants. It will be the seventh consecutive Patriots preseason concluded with the Giants. The Giants beat the Patriots 20-17 last season at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

It’s been a Jekyll and Hyde preseason for the Patriots. They looked fantastic in their first two games, crushing the Jaguars with their reserves and the Buccaneers with their starters. Against the Lions – a team that ranks first in the league in passing and total yards per game, and second in the NFC in points allowed per game – they looked dreadful. Which team will show up Thursday?

Giants Not as Scary as Lions

The Giants do not pack quite the same punch the Lions did. Their defense is mediocre, ranking them in the nebulous middle of the pack in most categories. They’ve only recorded five sacks, lacking the dynamic pass rush that helped them derail the Patriots’ undefeated season in Super Bowl XLII.

Continue reading Patriots Look to Wrap Up Preseason Against Giants

Former Patriots FB Heath Evans Retires to NFL Network

Heath Evans rushes for a two-point conversion against the Dolphins on Nov. 13, 2005- his first and best game with the Patriots. (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

Former Patriots fullback Heath Evans tweeted Tuesday that he has decided to retire, trading in the helmet and shoulder pads for a necktie and microphone on the NFL Network.

Evans played 10 full seasons in the NFL with four separate teams. The Patriots signed him on Nov. 1, 2005, after the Miami Dolphins released him a week earlier. Evans stayed with the Patriots through 2008, never missing a game.

Evans played his last two seasons with the New Orleans Saints but was rarely used. He earned a Super Bowl ring with the Saints after the 2009 season, though a knee injury ended that season for him in an October 25 game against the Dolphins.

Evans finished his rushing career with 579 yards, a 3.5 yards-per-carry average and four touchdowns. He recorded 439 receiving yards, posting a 7.7 yards-per-catch average and four receiving touchdowns. He also returned for 247 yards, bring his all-purpose total to 1,265.

Before the Dolphins, Evans spent four years with the Seattle Seahawks.

Evans in Foxboro

Evans’ best years unquestionably were with the Patriots. Over three quarters (453) of his career rushing yards were gained with the Patriots, as were over half (229) his receiving yards. Evans finished his career with eight career touchdowns, and half came with the Patriots (three rushing, one receiving).

As a fullback, Evans struggled to carve out a niche in a league that is quickly moving away from the position. Quicker and stronger running backs no longer need fullbacks to clear out blocks. Shooting the gap and turning the corner are requisite skills for RBs now, so players with the bulk to clear space aren’t as crucial.

The emergence of Kevin Faulk as Bill Belichick’s go-to third-down back in the last few seasons further diminished Evans’ usefulness to the Patriots, and the Saints never found a way to work him into their system.

Knowing When to Call it Quits

Faulk caught just seven passes and rushed only twice in 2010, and with the new kickoff rules for 2011 killing the need for quality special teams players, Evans likely saw his chances of ever getting serious playing time again (even by his standards) fading.

Evans had the chance to retire healthy and handsome. He had already established himself as a good quote-man in the locker room, and now he could go on t.v. and make some decent money without leaving football entirely. Totally sensible move.

A Measure of Revenge

Evans played 54 regular-season games with the Patriots. His best came on Nov. 13, 2005. Though it came against the Dolphins, the team who had cut him less than three weeks earlier, it was also Evans’ first with the Patriots, and the only 100-yard game of his career, rushing for 84 yards on 17 carries while adding 18 receiving yards on three catches. Evans may have set the bar too high too early.

The Patriots beat the Dolphins 23-16 that game, with Evans running in the two-point conversion with just over two minutes to play to put the Patriots up a touchdown.

After the game, Tom Brady said, “I remember the first day at practice when we thought, `Why did somebody release [Evans]?’ We thank the Dolphins very much for letting him go.”

The Memory of Evans Will Likely Fade Away

Evans missed by a year the Patriots’ three-title dynasty. From 2005-2008, the Patriots lost in each successive round of the playoffs (divisional round after ’05 season, AFC Championship after ’06, Super Bowl after ’07) until missing them entirely in 2008.

Other than a minor contributing role on the 18-1 2007 Patriots (in which he rushed for all three of his Patriots rushing touchdowns), Evans leaves virtually no mark in the annals of Patriots history. There won’t be a statue, a parade or even a discussion of his greatness. Evans simply didn’t do enough to merit any of that.

Evans legacy will be only that he played three and half of his 10 seasons in New England. He could very easily leave a far more indelible mark as a broadcaster, if only because his time as a player was so nondescript as to make a less memorable broadcasting career virtually impossible.

BarstoolSports Readers Also At Fault for Naked Photos of Tom Brady’s Son

BarstoolSports.com CEO Dave Portnoy should be punished for posting a pornographic photo of Tom Brady's 2-year-old son, but his readers created the situation that led to the posting. (Boston Phoenix/Matt Teu)

I’m pretty sure I know who 99 percent of my regular readers are, and I’m pretty sure all of them are intelligent, critical and feminist enough to recognize BarstoolSports.com for the piece of misogynist, disgusting, unfunny shit that it is. So it’s possible this column will seem like preaching to the choir, and the true sources (and targets) of my vitriol and ire will never read this. Still, some measure of reaction is necessary.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Dave Portnoy – CEO and “el Pres” of BarstoolSports.com – posted a photo of Tom Brady‘s 2-year-old son, Benjamin, Thursday. A naked photo. A naked photo with comments pointing to the size of the toddler’s genitalia.

I won’t include the link because a) I don’t want to encourage anyone to look at something as horrific and reprehensible as this, and b) because mother Gisele Bundchen already sent a cease-and-desist letter to Portnoy to have the photo removed, and Portnoy has complied (for now). Portnoy also made a video essentially justifying his actions and calling himself a victim after WEEI’s afternoon show “encouraged” violence against him.

Portnoy crossed a line that really shouldn’t even need discussion. How can you argue it’s “o.k.” to put a naked photo of a 2-year-old online and then tell people to gawk at it? What possible justification could you have? Do you think the public has a “right to know” what Benjamin Brady’s penis looks like? Do you think a child who can’t even read “was asking for it” by being naked on a beach? Are children too young to form memories mature enough to make their own decisions about selling their bodies? If this were your kid, instead of a famous athlete’s, would you hesitate for a second to sue Portnoy for everything he has, then fight back the urge to beat Portnoy to a bloody pulp when you faced him court?

Portnoy is an awful human being for doing this, but he’s not the only one to blame. To everyone who’s ever read BarstoolSports.com (and I can thankfully say I’ve not, beyond this column and a class assignment), who’s said how great the site is, who’s given his or her consent (intentional or not) for Portnoy and his staff to perpetuate every misogynistic stereotype on the face of the planet: this is also your fault. Your support led to this. You gave Portnoy an aura of invincibility, of authenticity. Every time you cheered him on, you killed a bit more of his consciousness. Faced with overwhelmingly positive reinforcement, Portnoy spiraled into depravity… because you told him that’s what you want. You devoured his content like a drug, and he became as dirty as a drug dealer.

Barstool Sports readers created a monster, and now he’s done something monstrous.

I’ve met Portnoy: he’s an arrogant, disrespectful jackass. Or, if you like him, he’s a “rascal.” Either way, it’s possible this could put Portnoy in jail, and rightly so. Massachusetts law states: “Whoever, with lascivious intent, disseminates any visual material that contains a representation or reproduction of any posture or exhibition in a state of nudity involving the use of a child who is under eighteen years of age … shall be punished in the state prison for a term of not less than ten nor more than twenty years or by a fine of not less than ten thousand nor more than fifty thousand dollars or three times the monetary value of any economic gain derived from said dissemination … or by both such fine and imprisonment.” They define “lascivious intent” to include if “the focal point of a visual depiction is the child’s genitalia.” On its own, the photo may or may not be pornographic. With Portnoy’s comments however, it becomes lascivious, and Portnoy could be in trouble.

Portnoy, you’re a disgusting, despicable turd, and I hope when you go to jail you’re made to stand in a shower naked while inmates gawk at your genitalia. Then maybe you’ll understand what Benjamin Brady might go through for the rest of his life.

Portnoy should and hopefully will be punished for his actions. But his readers should know they share some of the the blame.

Previewing the 2011 Patriots’ Quarterbacks

The 2011 Patriots' fortunes will start and stop with Tom Brady, as they do every year. When Brady's career is over, Ryan Mallett might be his replacement. (Photos courtesy Getty Images and AP)

Sports of Boston will be previewing the 2011 position-by-position over the next few weeks, and I volunteered to preview the quarterbacks. The previews are publishing it reverse order of importance, so my piece will be published last. If you want to read my preview now, read on.

Not every great NFL quarterback won a Super Bowl, and not every Super Bowl champion team had a great quarterback. Quarterbacks need quality receivers, and teams can structure themselves around a running game or even a defense. However, in a league built to protect its marquee players from even minor hits, the easiest way to build a winning football team is to start with the quarterback. So let’s look at the Patriots’.

Tom Brady

Really, what still needs to be said about Tom Brady? Three-time Super Bowl champion. Two-time Super Bowl MVP, two-time regular season MVP. Six time Pro Bowler. A surefire Hall of Famer when it’s all over. Brady is quite possibly the single best quarterback in the NFL. The only knock against him has been his two first-round playoff losses in the last two seasons, and the 2010 loss had far more to do with a lack of pass rushers.

Brady is coming off his second MVP season, in which he passed for 3,900 yards, 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He completed 65.9 percent of his passes and finished with a 111.0 QB rating. All of these numbers put 2010 behind only his 2007 season, in which he broke the single-season touchdown passes record.

Brady accomplished all of this with a recovering Wes Welker and no deep threat once Randy Moss was traded. Welker should be even stronger in 2011, and the Patriots added Chad Ochocinco to a receiving corps that already has Deion Branch and two very promising tight ends. Ochocinco doesn’t quite have Moss’s raw athleticism, but Ochocinco can still stretch a defense out and keep the safeties from cheating up. He also doesn’t have Moss’s selfishness and lack of team spirit.

Brady loves to have four or five options for the 7-yard pass, and the 2011 receivers look even better suited to Brady’s style. Expect more big numbers from Brady in 2011.

Brian Hoyer

Brian Hoyer impressed Bill Belichick enough as Brady’s backup in 2009 that the Patriots began the 2010 season with Hoyer as their only other quarterback. Hoyer did not get any extended playing time until the final game of ’10 season, but he made that final game count. He took over for Brady up 31-0 against the Dolphins midway through the third and connected with Brandon Tate on a Brady-like 42-yard bomb for his first career touchdown pass. He finished the game 7-for-13 for 122 yards and a 111.7 QB rating.

It’s unlikely that Belichick ever envisioned Hoyer as an actual eventual replacement for Brady. Nor is it likely Hoyer will ever be Matt Cassell or Matt Hasselbeck – backup quarterbacks that became superstars for other teams. Hoyer will likely play out his entire NFL career as a backup, only seeing action in blowouts or after injury. Backup quarterbacks don’t have to do much to stay in the NFL, and Hoyer seems to do what little he has to competently enough to keep his job.

Jonathan Crompton

The Patriots signed Jonathan Crompton to their practice squad in November 2010 after the Chargers released him in September. Crompton saw no action with the Patriots in 2010 but was signed for 2011.

It’s difficult to say what exactly Crompton – a fifth-round draft pick – brings to the table. He did nothing at Tennessee before earning the starting spot in his senior year in 2009, when he passed for 2,500 yards and 27 touchdowns, which ranks third all-time among Tennessee quarterbacks. He also went 142 passing attempts without an interception, one shy of the school record and reminiscent of Brady’s still-active streak of 338 interception-free attempts.

Crompton is only 24 years old, so in all likelihood his best years are ahead of him. He might eventually become the primary backup quarterback on a team (not necessarily the Patriots), but becoming an NFL starter seems unlikely. He might also bounce around practice squads until he quietly washes out of the NFL. At this point, there’s no way to be sure.

Ryan Mallett

The Patriots seem far more interested in rookie Ryan Mallett, whom they drafted 74th overall and signed to a four-year deal on July 29.

Mallett brings a far more impressive pedigree to the Patriots than Crompton. As a junior at Arkansas, Mallett led the Razorbacks all the way to the BCS Allstate Sugar Bowl, where they lost to Ohio State. It was the first BCS bowl appearance in Arkansas history. Mallett broke multiple Arkansas single-season passing records in 2010, including completions (266), passing yards (3,869) and touchdowns (32).

Mallett may have the most potential of any of Brady’s backups, and at 23 he’d enter his prime just as Brady would finish his career. Mallett may very well be the quarterback of the future, but it remains to be seen how the new collective bargaining agreement will affect his longevity with the Patriots.