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Undefeated Mirage Gives Way to Reality of Flawed Patriots Team in OT Loss to Broncos

By on November 30, 2015 at 1:08pm
Tom Brady couldn't overcome the mounting injuries or the referees as the Patriots' undefeated season came to a halt against the Denver Broncos. (ESPN) Tom Brady couldn't overcome the mounting injuries or the referees as the Patriots' undefeated season came to a halt against the Denver Broncos. (ESPN)

It was all a mirage.

All the talk about another undefeated season for the New England Patriots was nothing more than an illusion propped up by a zero in the loss column, at least until Brock Osweiler and the Denver Broncos officially put an end to what was all but an impossibility anyway with a 30-24 overtime win at Mile High Stadium.

Now that the undefeated season has been undone, the comparisons to the 2007 Patriots can be put to bed, and the world can finally see this Patriots team for what it truly is: a flawed squad whose Super Bowl aspirations may have finally come back to reality thanks to a seemingly insurmountable rash of injuries. Continue reading Undefeated Mirage Gives Way to Reality of Flawed Patriots Team in OT Loss to Broncos »

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Gronkowski Avoids Major Injury

November 30, 2015 at 12:51pm in Featured, Patriots

When Rob Gronkowski was down on the field writing in pain in the fourth quarter of last night’s game, things appeared to be dire for New England. Gronkowski is as important to the Patriots offense as Tom Brady is, far and away the best tight end in the league. If he was going to miss significant time, the Patriots Super Bowl aspirations would have been thrown in jeopardy.

Thankfully for the Patriots, it appears as though the injury is not as bad as originally thought. His x-rays came back negative and the team had a positive outlook  towards his MRI today. One source even told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network that Gronkowski may not even miss a game. For a team that has suffered a rash of injuries to key offensive players, this good news surely comes with an enormous sigh of relief.

The Patriots did not escape Denver completely unscathed, however. Star linebacker Dont’a Hightower suffered an MCL sprain in the loss and could miss several weeks. Depending on how bad the sprain is, he could come back sooner but with Jamie Collins still out the Patriots are thin at linebacker to go along with already being thin at wide receiver.

If Gronkowski has to miss a week, he will not be on the field for next Sunday’s game against Philadelphia. The team could choose to sit him out as a precaution and still win, which would be an ideal situation. After the game against Philadelphia, the Patriots travel to Houston for Sunday Night Football.


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1. Patriots – Broncos:

OFFICIALS – The Ghost of Ben Dreith Visits Patriots

* As soon as the crowd volume went up – a bunch of guys in black and white shirts that never had a prom date realized they could be accepted by 80,000 people just by throwing their yellow flag up in their air

* Gronk gets mauled on almost every route never mind people sniping at his knees and he gets the offensive interference call (Talib went at Chandler’s knees later – gotta deal with it)

* How come no call on Bronco launching at Brady high

* Official calls holding on Chung in the end zone on a play in which Thomas actually grabbed Chung’s face mask and the ball wasn’t even thrown – congrats back judge you’ve come a long way from wearing a pen protector in your front pocket in high school – you just impacted an NFL game.

* Harry Sinden would have been waiting for the officials

* This is just another way the league compels parity upon league


* No fumbles with non-kicking balls in snow and cold – Felger? Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: Harper Drop, Officials Desperate to be Liked, Run Out Clock »

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Hanley Ramirez (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Sometimes in sports there exists a gap between what fans or analysts might hope or want a team to do with its roster and what that team actually does. One example involves the Red Sox and Hanley Ramirez. About halfway through the 2015 season it became apparent that Hanley was/is not interested in making himself better, and is generally not worth a major league roster spot. Many fans (myself included) are hoping to find a Hanley trade under the tree this holiday season, which is why it was so exciting to see the reports that Dave Bombrowski is actively shopping Hanley to other teams around the league.

Unfortunately trading Hanley is much easier said than done; his attitude and salary make it more difficult to find a willing taker. The Red Sox will likely need to decide between straight dumping Hanley for the sake of getting rid of him, and including more cash and/or players to get something decent in return. It seems like including more money to offset his salary is the smart play here, but it remains to be seen if a trade partner would be willing to give up anything of value for Hanley. The report above cites the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, and Los Angeles Angels as speculative fits at the moment, so lets take a quick look at what a deal could look like with any of those clubs (disclaimer: Hanley is still owed $66 million over the next three seasons, plus a vesting option for the 2019 season).

Continue reading There’s Hope for a Hanley Trade »

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Football fans will not be treated to another installment of Brady vs Manning on Sunday as the Broncos quarterback is still out with an injury. They will, however, be treated to one of the most captivating battles of the entire football season: the Patriots offense vs the Broncos defense. Each unit is the best at what it does. The Patriots offense has scored at least 20 points in every game despite several key injuries and the Broncos defense has been absolutely suffocating with just 284 yards per game allowed and 18.3 points per game given up.
When two units that do so many things well meet on the field, things generally come down to a handful of individual matchups and this game is no different. The two things that will most determine who wins this clash are how the Broncos will cover Rob Gronkowski and how the Patriots will block Von Miller.

Aqib Talib could be asked to cover Rob Gronkowski, similar to when he covered Jimmy Graham as a member of the Patriots. Talib held Graham to zero catches in that game and did a masterful job sticking with the tight end throughout. Still, Gronkowski is better than Graham and Talib will have his hands full if asked to stay with the mammoth Patriots tight end. The Buffalo Bills played a lot of zone on Monday night and blitzed Tom Brady often, both which resulted in Gronkowski having one of his lowest outputs of the year. The Broncos have another option in Danny Trevathan, who is a nimble linebacker that does well in coverage. Trevathan is 6’1” and 230 pounds, not tall enough to challenge Gronkowski for jump balls but physical enough the jam him at the line.

This is where the rash of injuries the Patriots have suffered come into play. Without Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, or Danny Amendola the Patriots will have to rely heavily on Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell. If no other players step up and the Patriots fail to run the ball well, Denver will be able to divert extra resources, perhaps a mix of Talib and Trevathan, to stopping the Patriots All-Pro. Normally when articles are written about how a team can slow Gronkowski down, he answers them with monster performances. This week could be one of the few times were a team is expected to and actually does slow him down.

One thing that the Bills did an excellent job of against the Patriots was confusing the protection up front. They blitzed effectively but were also able to get pressure on Brady with less than five rushers because of how well they disguised what they were going to do. With a defensive coordinator who is as adept as Wade Phillips, the Broncos have a realistic chance of doing the same.

There is no doubt that Miller is licking his chops after watching the Patriots offensive line struggle on Monday night. Miller is one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the NFL and he has been a key piece of the dominant Denver defense. The Broncos can line him up in several different spots but it is likely they will target Patriots offensive tackle Marcus Cannon. Cannon is a backup who has been pressed into service due to Nate Solder’s injury and his performance has been spotty. He played well against the Colts before being injured and missing several weeks. His first game back was Monday night and he played poorly. He accounted for two penalties and was beaten off the ball consistently. Against a player like Miller, the odds are heavily stacked against Cannon. Earlier this season when the Patriots went against strong pass rushes, they made a point of having Brady get rid of the ball in less than two and a half seconds therefore negating the rush. With Edelman, Amendola and Lewis out they will have a tougher time of doing that and more pressure is put on the offensive line.

Going against a prodigious pass rusher like Miller is not the only concern of Cannon’s. As the Patriots left tackle, he will need to block Miller to the outside on many of the inside runs that the Patriots deploy. Much is made of Miller as a quarterback attacker, but he also needs to be accounted for in the run game. New England will surely give Cannon help from a running back or tight end, but he will have several plays in which he needs to defeat Miller on his own. If he cannot do that, it will be a long night for the Patriots offense. If he can, the Patriots will have a better chance at attacking Denver’s excellent secondary.

In both of these match-ups, the early advantage has to go to Denver. Gronkowski might be the best tight end ever to play football, but even he will need players around him to elevate their game in order to attack an opponent as qualified as Denver. Miller is a potential Hall of Famer in his own right and going against a backup tackle is almost not fair. This is not a death sentence on the Patriots undefeated season. They can go to Denver and win, but they will need to have success in both of these matchups more than 50% of the time. This shapes up to be a rock fight type of game that will be physical and punishing. It may not be Brady-Manning, but it will be must see TV.

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1. Patriots – Broncos Preview:

* Worst memories in Denver – Sure Handed Mosi Tatupu fumbles / Ben Watson runs down Champ Bailey but ref doesn’t give him credit / Patriots allow Peyton Manning to stand in pocket and pick them apart / Raymond Berry starts Tony Eason over Doug Flutie

* Orange Crush was a cool name

* Another reason to hate Denver – Tom Jackson

2. Around College Football:

* BC and Syracuse have combined for a 0-15 record since late September Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: Belichick’s Greatest Move »

David Price (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Its no surprise to anyone that the Red Sox are planning to play at the top of the starting pitching market this offseason, both in trades and free agency. David Price has been seen as the top available arm, along with Zack Greinke and sometimes Johnny Cueto. Each would be a pretty significant upgrade over what the team currently has in its rotation, but there are legitimate risks associated as well. Those risks seem to make the trade market a more desirable upgrade route for the Red Sox, although Dave Dombrowski has strongly alluded to the free agent market as the most likely option to add a starter. This news came following the team’s acquisition of Craig Kimbrel from the Padres, though it wasn’t entirely surprising.

The story has gotten interesting over the past five days, as reports are now pouring in from reputable sources that the Red Sox are prepared to be the highest bidder for Price’s services. Ken Rosenthal made the first public connection on Monday, though that was allegedly more his own opinion than real speculation. But he then followed with a report of a handful of teams who should have the best shot at landing Price, with the Red Sox included as a favorite. Buster Olney followed by reporting his “high expectation” that the Red Sox would outbid the field on Price, and Tom Verducci concurred. There could be some pack mentality going on, based on the obvious fit between team and player, but that is a lot of agreeing from a lot of different sources.

But the biggest domino fell on Wednesday when Peter Gammons reported that his industry sources agree with the speculation. Not to say that Gammons has never been wrong, but he is one of the more plugged-in reporters in the country, so his opinion should carry a good deal of weight. Nothing appears close at the moment, but with so many people saying the same thing it appears that momentum could be building toward an agreement in the near future. Fans will want to stay tuned to the situation, especially as we get closer to the start of the Winter Meetings in December.

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