Tag Archives: Boston.com

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Raiders game

FOXBOROUGH — If the Patriots’ performance against the Oakland Raiders is to be considered anything close to the team’s best effort, there needs to be a careful rethinking of the roster, particularly on offense.

Only the special teams unit played up to its capabilities Sunday as the Patriots beat the Raiders, 16-9, in New England’s home opener, with Stephen Gostkowski contributing three field goals. Ryan Allen averaged 48 yards per punt. There were no miscues from long snapper Danny Aiken, a sign of a job well done. Matthew Slater had a stellar tackle on one punt. It was seamless execution all around.

The defense, which managed to shut the Raiders out of the end zone, struggled on third down (2 for 4 in the first quarter) before pinning Oakland down and eventually being bailed out (thank Vince Wilfork and Logan Ryan), marking yet another slow start. (Oakland finished 5 of 13 on third downs.) But the unit at least got the job done, allowing only 241 total yards, including 67 rushing.

Unsurprisingly, the Patriots offensive line struggled. Tom Brady did not look like he was commanding a Super Bowl contending offense, let alone appear as if he were a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.

It’s all concerning, which is our focus in these five takeaways from the game.

1. The Patriots are having a hard time spreading the ball around — The Patriots had all of the offseason, training camp, preseason, and two regular season games to prepare for Sunday. That means they not only had the means to get on the same page as far as plays go, timing, and chemistry, but also had extensive time to determine which players could put them in the best position to operate at a high level, something akin to last year’s seventh ranked offense and 10th ranked passing offense. (News flash: They’re not anywhere near that now.) Despite this opportunity, one player coming back from a serious knee injury garnered six targets (three receptions), while underutilized players like Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Tim Wright languished. Between those three, Brady targeted the group three times (one each), resulting in two completions for 26 yards. Amendola hasn’t had a reception since Miami in Week 1. It’s starting to get weird the way in which Brady eyeballs Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman while ignoring everybody else. I think we all understand that feeding both Edelman and Gronk is a good thing, but balance for the offense — which was discussed at length this week — should be the priority because it benefits the offense as a whole. Based on their snaps, the team believes Amendola, Thompkins and even Wright can help contribute to fixing the offense’s woes. Brady just needs to get them the ball, something he has acknowledged now on multiple occasions.

“I think we’ve always gotten better as the season has gone on and as players, gained more experience in what we’re doing,” Brady said. “We’ve got some new players. We’ve got different things that are happening. We’re all trying to get used to one another and used to the things we’re doing and trying to understand the things you’re good at. And then ultimately as the season goes, you work on the things that haven’t been going well and you try to stay real ahead of the things that you are doing really well at and then at the end of the year, you’re in a position to hopefully make the playoffs and do those types of things.

“Right now we’re building our team,” Brady continued. “We’re trying to make improvements. It hasn’t all gone right. It doesn’t go right when we have penalties or turnovers or negative runs. We’ve just got to do our assignment, do our job. We’ve got to do it better and then ultimately that’s going to lead to more scoring.”

This excuse that the Patriots are still building as a team, particularly among its skill players, is quickly wearing thin. The Patriots won’t be afforded the luxury of figuring it out in the weeks ahead when they face the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals.

2. The offensive line’s talent is unbalanced — Bill Belichick spoke enthusiastically about the benefits of using an extra offensive lineman and an unbalanced line, along with its history in football, on Wednesday. But after Sunday’s game, it appears the Patriots are using that extra offensive lineman to mask some serious deficiencies in the group. Nate Solder has seemingly regressed. Jordan Devey struggles in pass protection. Dan Connolly has made significant mistakes at center, including letting pressure right up the middle on Brady Sunday. Even with an unbalanced line at times, utilizing Cameron Fleming as a tight end, the Patriots have struggled to set blocks on the edge. (Fleming was overpowered by Oakland’s Khalil Mack.) So they turned to other gimmicks, running a hurry up offense at times to make the game difficult on the Raiders’ pass rushers. But there’s no escaping these problems and there’s no way the team can pretend like the loss of Logan Mankins, as well as Dante Scarnecchia, hasn’t been devastating.

For the rest of my takeaways from the game, visit Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Vikings game

It’s OK to call this the bounce back game.

There’s so many players on the Patriots roster that bettered their efforts Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. The 30-7 win was sparked almost entirely by the defense, which accounted for four interceptions against former Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel, as well as a blocked field goal.

Here’s our takeaways from Sunday’s win, the Patriots’ first of the year, with the defense almost entirely in mind.

1. Chandler Jones much better on the edge — We’ll remember, probably fondly, Chandler Jones’ blocked field goal, which he scooped up and returned for a touchdown. It’ll make the rounds on the highlights. But of greater significance for the Patriots this season will be his play as a 3-4 linebacker. In Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots opted to use him as 3-4 defensive end, something that did not go over well, despite a couple of quarterback hurries. (Two penalties for roughing the passer and $16,000 fine later, it’s really something he even wants to forget.) But on Sunday, as the outside linebacker, Jones showed Matt Patricia exactly how he should be used on regular basis. Not only was Jones able to get to the quarterback, recording two sacks and three hits while tying the team lead in tackles. As that bigger outside linebacker, he was able to brush off tackles, tight ends, and fullbacks to insert himself into running plays, something he couldn’t do as an interior player. That kind of promising effort is only enabled by the healthy return of Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga. Siliga, in his second game, was a regular alongside Vince Wilfork in the 3-4 for the first time and Chris Jones returned for his first action since hurting his ankle in the preseason. It’s safe to say that with this healthy quartet, this is the lineup of players you can expect going forward, much like you can expect Chandler Jones to dominate the edge for the rest of the season.

2. Swapping wide receivers … what’s the difference? — It was nice to see Aaron Dobson make his season debut for the Patriots but it came at the expense of Kenbrell Thompkins who, like Dobson in Week 1, was a healthy scratch. Dobson caught one pass for 13 yards on two targets. In Week 1, Thompkins caught five passes for 37 yards on 10 targets. You can be the judge for yourself on who was better. But my eyes are on Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola, both of whom didn’t record a reception and were targeted collectively once. Something’s gotta give.

Read the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Roger Goodell embarrasses himself, NFL in Ray Rice video debacle

The Associated Press has blasted a massive hole in the NFL’s story that the league did not see the elevator video that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then fiancée twice in the face.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games prior to the video’s release by TMZ, which sparked further outcry over the light punishment given the juxtaposition against the suspensions of players for performance enhancing drugs as well as recreational drugs. Goodell followed up with an indefinite suspension after the video’s release.

He was already backpedaling.

However, the commissioner’s excuse that the league’s overtures to law enforcement for the video, which he claims were either declined or ignored, is being contradicted now by an AP report that says the league did in fact receive the video and that it was viewed by someone in the NFL’s office.

The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

Read the rest of this commentary on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from Patriots-Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Patriots played one half of football pretty good. But there wasn’t one thing that looked good for the Patriots in the second half of their season opener Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

Not one damn thing.

The Patriots were shut out in the second half, defensively inept in the third and fourth quarters, gashed again on defense by Knowshon Moreno in a 33-20 loss at Sun Life Stadium. There’s not much worth retaining from that. Bury the football and file this one in the memory dump.

Besides disappointing fans with a lackluster effort (there was a full blown meltdown on Twitter Sunday afternoon), the Patriots surprised us with an abhorrent effort on both sides of the ball.

As difficult as this might be, I’m going to boil this down to five takeaways.

1. Mix and match, fix and scratch — Bill Belichick said after the game it was the team’s plan to play every single player. That led to the offensive line getting switched up practically every other series. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer were set at the tackles while Marcus Cannon was set at left guard. But the center and right guard combination seemed to differ on a whim.

The Patriots brass appears to want to extend the tryouts for starting positions into the regular season. While Dan Connolly started at center and Jordan Devey started at right guard, Ryan Wendell would come in and play center and Connolly would shift to right guard.

The obvious inference from this shuffling of players is that the Patriots are unsure about which combo they truly desire. And there’s nothing better than live game action to find out, if we are to continue to infer upon the situation. That led to disastrous results on Sunday, with Tom Brady sacked four times — all in the second half — and six total hits on the quarterback. Everybody was giving up plays on the line and the communication appeared to be shot. Belichick and new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo need to make a decision about who the starting group is now so that this unit can build cohesion. It certainly appeared that the coaching staff thought they could skate by against the Dolphins. They ought not make the same mistake twice.

2. The 3-4 debuts to substandard results — The new-ish Patriots defensive scheme was supposed to allow for the front seven to bring pressure on the quarterback from every angle. That is not exactly what happened Sunday afternoon. In fact, if you told me a day prior that Jerod Mayo would get the Patriots’ first sack of the 2014 season — and the only Patriots sack in Sunday’s game — I would’ve laughed in your face. I’m sure crazier things have happened. There were only two recorded hits on Ryan Tannehill Sunday, not including both of Chandler Jones’ penalties for roughing the passer. The Patriots looked off kilter all game and there is no easy way to explain how ineffective they were. But what was most problematic was the team’s run defense, which allowed 191 yards to the Dolphins, including 134 for Moreno. (Moreno, if you recall, ran for 224 yards last season against the Patriots as a member of the Denver Broncos.) Lamar Miller added 59. Fixing the run game isn’t easy. And the Patriots could very well be exposed next week against Minnesota and Adrian Peterson.

Read the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Why Darrelle Revis is the Patriots’ X-factor

Everything hinges on Darrelle Revis.

Everything.

The Patriots pushed all of their chips onto the table when they signed the 29-year-old three-time first-team all pro to a 1-year deal for $12 million, including an option for a second year at $20 million. And it should be no surprise that the hype has been at full tilt for the Aliquippa, Penn., native ever since, given what he represents for the Patriots: hope.

Revis is a player Tom Brady once said “doesn’t have any weaknesses.” The respect is apparent.

You have to understand, for the past seven years, this Patriots team has been just a few pieces shy of a Super Bowl victory. Every. Single. Year.

Read the entire feature on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Why the Patriots will win Super Bowl XLIX

In just a span of seven months, we’ve seen Bill Belichick and company make some extraordinary moves in order to position the team to better compete in the AFC.

Scratch that.

The Patriots are better positioned to dominate the AFC. They’ve got the quarterback, the defense, and the skill position players to run the tables. And that’s with a schedule loaded with every AFC playoff opponent from a year prior.

Consider that with every major transaction that the team has made since February, the Patriots have added an element to their roster that has only bolstered the team’s chances of besting the Denver Broncos — the Patriots’ largest threat to a Super Bowl berth — and given them the tools to possibly fend off Super Bowl contenders in the NFC.

Read the rest of this column on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Boston Globe wins Pulitzer prize for breaking news

Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory salutes his staff for their work during the Boston Marathon, noting that it was such a trying period.
Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory salutes his staff for their work during the Boston Marathon, noting that it was such a trying period.
The Boston Globe won the Pulitzer prize yesterday for breaking news coverage of the Boston Marathon. While I’m glad to have played a part in the coverage, I’m so sorry I had to.

We’re now at the one-year anniversary of the tragic bombings that took place. It’s a good time to reflect on what an honor like this means and to keep it in perspective. So many people spent countless hours reporting, editing, and updating the public on every single piece of information that came across our paths. And over time, as the accolades have piled up, the awards continue to be a somber reminder of what has taken place, both for those who were intimately involved in the coverage of the tragedy and those who were only on the periphery. Three people were killed — Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu and later Sean Collier — while more than 260 others were injured.

That somberness, despite any hint of joy or pride in the recognition bestowed, remains. It won’t leave us. And if there were a better way to win an award, I would take it. I can only speak for myself in that sense. But that sentiment was shared widely yesterday in the newsroom after the awards were announced.

“There’s nobody in this room that wanted to cover this story. And each and every one of us hopes that nothing like it ever happens again on our watch,” Globe editor Brian McGrory said.

How we covered the Marathon in the very beginning

Boston.com was truly a pivotal part of the Marathon coverage for the Globe and was a prominent portion of the Globe’s entry to the administers of the Pulitzer prizes at Columbia University. As the leading web portal in New England, we were first with the news online and we truly were a 24-hour news operation going forward. In those immediate hours, I was manning the desk with then Boston.com sports editor Matt Pepin. We were putting together projects and photo galleries from the day’s race and were getting ready to wind down from the cranked up nature of the Marathon. That changed when the first tweets and photos came from the finish line. Matt and I culled those tweets together together before one of our producers, Steve Silva, sent his first dispatch.

What many people don’t remember about the Globe’s coverage is that those first tweets and photos were posted in Boston.com’s live race blog before we transitioned to the actual live coverage of the bombings. We ran both live blogs for a period of time because there were so many of our online readers — a substantial amount actually — who were on our site for the race coverage. Those numbers only increased dramatically in our race blog before we switched over completely. Maintaining both was seen as the right thing to do for our readers until it was no longer feasible.

This is where the quick thinking of Adrienne Lavidor-Berman, the Globe’s social media editor, came into such great use. She was able to deftly handle the transition and set us up for success. Matt and I handled the race blog (the sports guys) and Adrienne handled the bombings blog. We made sure to cross post until we finally made the split.

Also worth remembering was that both Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com, because of heavy internet traffic, were down for a period of time. During that period, the Globe actually had our live blogs hosted by ScribbleLive’s servers, which enabled us to keep publishing live and keep our readers informed. ScribbleLive describes this in full here.

You can only imagine all of the technical, emotional, and logistical difficulties that arose during that time. In that sense, it was remarkable we were still able to produce the content we did. So I think it’s important to note that while the reporting on the ground was pivotal, there should be quite a bit of recognition to our developers and web staff for being able to traverse such a difficult set of circumstances.

Again, I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish, but I’m really sorry that such a tragedy is what caused it. And as what was noted yesterday by the Globe’s sports editor, Joe Sullivan, when a stressful, adverse, and unwelcome situation arises, you never know how you’re going to react. The staff of the Boston Globe and Boston.com reacted by doing its job. I think the Pulitzer just recognizes that.

Have you seen the re-designed mobile site for Boston.com?

A screenshot of the new mobile site for Boston.com.
A screenshot of the new mobile site for Boston.com.

As part of the change that is occurring at Boston.com and the Boston Globe, the site is going through a re-design.The mobile portion of the site launched last week. You can catch a glimpse of it above or visit mobile.boston.com.

The cool thing is the site also has responsive design, just like BostonGlobe.com. So it’s built in the mold of new-ish sites BetaBoston.com and BDCWire.com.

Here’s some sample screenshots.

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Change is coming

So I’ve been meaning to address a number of professional changes for me for some time. The tricky thing is you never know how much you can say and who is gonna throw a fit because you said it. (And then after awhile you just lose track of the time.)

No mas!

About two weeks ago, we had a major shakeup at Boston.com that will help the site better differentiate itself from the Boston Globe. For all of my friends and family that are wondering, yes, there is a difference between the two sites. While Boston.com has been the portal site of the Boston Globe newspaper since 1995, that relationship between the paper and the site changed significantly when the paper decided to launch BostonGlobe.com in September 2010 (it went live just a year later). When the site went live, we began the company’s two-site strategy, with one site remaining free (Boston.com) and the other subscriber based (BostonGlobe.com). Obviously that confused everyone involved because multiple pieces of content, whether they be stories, photos, or video, were on both sites.

I can’t tell you how many times I tried to explain to Claudia what the difference was between the two sites. Let’s just say she never fully understood.
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Patriots franchise tag options slim, unattractive

If there is one takeaway from the NFL Scouting Combine that had nothing to do with the action on the field, it was the reports of continued negotiations between the Patriots and cornerback Aqib Talib.

The negotiations are a welcome development given Talib’s importance to the team’s secondary. His stock has increased league-wide. His respect is universal. No one forgets how he shut down the Saints’ Jimmy Graham and how he saved the Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons.

The six-year veteran, whose brash and quixotic play helped improve the Patriots’ secondary ten-fold (a jump from the 29th-ranked pass defense in 2012 to the 18th-ranked pass defense in 2013), can very well determine the team’s draft strategy and approach in free agency.

Read the full post on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.