1. Patriots vs. Titans:

MISC

* How happy were gamblers with the Patriots covering the spread and over with a meaningless field goal kick

* With Brady’s illness and all – just take the win and get out of there

* I know Belichick is right almost always but why is Gronk in the game up by two scores to the Titans with three minutes left (he tweaked something falling out of bounds in the end zone)

* Amazing how many times Gostkowski is close to hitting that bulls eye in the stands

* Interesting camera angle today at Foxboro – thought it was lower

* Do your job – Is Gronk responsible for helping Brady with high fiving

* Injuries – Hightower, Chung and Amendola – ugh

OFFENSE

* How about Joey Iosefa trucking Coty Sensabaugh Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Send Gamblers Home Happy »

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FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 23:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills is tackled by Dominique Easley #99 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Patriots received more bad news on the injury front on Tuesday with Dominique Easley being placed on season ending injured reserve and LeGarrette Blount potentially missing the rest of the season also. Easley is the 13th Patriot placed on injured reserve this season and if Blount is put on the list he would be the 14th.

Easley is being placed on injured reserve for the second straight season, this time due to a thigh injury. He had two sacks and 15 tackles this season as well as flashing potential pass rush dominance on several other plays in which he was not able to get to the quarterback. The positive news for New England is that this injury is unrelated to the two previous torn ACL injuries Easley had. He should be ready to go for next season and could have a breakout year if he can stay healthy.

Blount is a proven late season and playoff performer for the Patriots and leaves the team without a large “hammer” type running back. Already without Dion Lewis, the Patriots will have to rely on James White and Brandon Bolden to shoulder the load the rest of the way. The team did bring in Montee Ball yesterday on a practice quad contract, but his impact will likely be minimal unless he can quickly master the Patriots offense.

It has not been an easy season for the Patriots health wise and they have lost two more contributors this week. These losses are survivable, but it will make things that harder for New England going forward.

There was no one happier to see Rob Gronkowski back than Tom Brady as the two connected on a touchdown pass.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

After losing two games in a row you knew there was no way the Patriots were going to lose Sunday against the Texans. With Belichick and Tom Brady involved the Patriots haven’t lost more than two games in a row since 2002. Offensively the team is still banged up but the return of Rob Gronkowski made an immediate impact. Julian Edelman returned to the practice field much earlier than anyone expected, granted it was light work but still a positive sight nonetheless. Both of those only added to the fact that the Bengals lost the game and Andy Dalton for potentially the rest of the season and the Broncos blew a 12-0 lead at home against the Raiders. The Patriots took the opening and now control their own destiny.

– Sunday night was the most balanced offensive game plan that they’ve used all year. Tom Brady finished with 30 pass attempts while the team as a whole ran the ball 31 times. They finally decided to stick with the run and it paid dividends. LeGarrette Blount looked to be having his most productive game of the season rushing 10 times for 53 yards. Unfortunately his day and season were ended early. Brandon Bolden showed a good burst for his first extended look of the season finishing with 51 yards on 16 carries. James White started to make more of an impact in the passing game gaining 27 yards on a screen pass. It’s a shame that one of the best rushing games for the year is marred by the loss of Blount. Continue reading Notes and Observations Week 14: Patriots Take Control of The AFC, Defeat Texans 27-6 »

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Patriotsgab.com

The Patriots took care of business Sunday night in Houston with a dominating and much needed road victory over the Texans 27-6. New England improved to 11-2 and with the loss of the Miami Dolphins to the New York Giants last night on Monday Night Football the Patriots clinched the AFC East division. Tom Brady has now led the Pats to AFC East division titles in 13 of the 14 healthy seasons he has had. The battle for the top seed in the conference playoffs also had a shake up with the Cinncinati Bengals and Denver Broncos both losing leaving the Pats alone at the top. This means, with three games left in the regular season, the Patriots control their own destiny, and by winning out will have the number one seed earning them a first round bye and home field advantage. The bye is particularly helpful for an extremely banged up Patriots team. Home field advantage is crucial as the Pats attempt to pave the road to Super Bowl Fifty.

New England has been nearly unbeatable at home, particularly in the playoffs, and have had great success in using the number one seed to their advantage. They welcome teams to frozen Gillette Stadium in January. Super Bowl history shows a top seeded Patriots team is a force to be reckoned with. At the very beginning of the Tom Brady era in 2001 the Patriots had a two seed and used a snow covered field (and the birth of the Tuck Rule) to beat out the Oakland Raiders before advancing to beat the Steelers at Heinz Field on their way to a Super Bowl win at the SuperDome against the Greatest Show on Turf, the St. Louis Rams. In 2003 New England used a top seed to host Tennessee and Indinanapolis at Gillette Stadium, they both left in defeat as the Patriots went on to beat the NFC represenative Carolina Panthers in Houston. The defending champs used another two seed in 2004, again beating Indy (always a Patriots fan’s favorite win), winning again at Pittsburgh before taking their third Super Bowl title in four years over the Eagles of Philadelphia. Although not the fondest memories in New England, it is also important to highlight the 2007 and 2012 playoff seasons where the Patriots used number one seeds in the AFC to catapult them to Super Bowl appearences. In 2014 the Patriots solidified the dynasty by winning another Super Bowl in the final seconds of an unforgettable game to claim their fourth of the Brady/Belichick Era. Guess what? It was a number one seed that allowed the Patriots home field advantage in a tight win over Baltimore before destroying Andrew Luck and Indianapolis at Gillette in what would later become the DeflateGate Saga. In the six Super Bowl appearances since 2001 four times the Patriots have had the number one seed in the AFC to help them get there.

The only two teams really within striking distance of New England are Cinncinati and Denver and both teams have their own struggles coming off losses. Cinncinati quarterback Andy Dalton has a fractured thumb that apparently won’t require surgery, however, his effectiveness is in question as well as his “week to week” status. Dalton’s back up is former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron who didn’t look bad against the Steelers but two interceptions, one that sealed the victory for Pittsburgh, did not help the cause. The Broncos have to decide whether they will go back to the seemingly ancient Peyton Manning for the final three games of the season or stick with Brock Osweiler who had success against the Pats but lost this past week 15-12 to the Raiders and did not look great doing so.

For the Patriots the Tennessee Titans and then two division opponents in the Jets and Dolphins are all that stand in the way of the AFC playoffs running, once again, through New England. For Pats fans the Denver game was a tough loss. The home loss to Eagles was out of character and a disgraceful performance, particularly on special teams, which, if you have ever listened to a Bill Belichick press conference you would know it is imperative to execute in all three phases off the game: offense, defense and special teams. It appears now with a solid win against Houston and a stroke of luck with competitors falling down this week, that the Pats are back in business. If they can win out and, equally if not more so important, get healthy, they have a real shot at a deep playoff run.

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Julian Edelman Returns to Practice

December 11, 2015 at 12:29pm in Featured, NFL, Patriots

In a somewhat surprising development, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman returned to practice on Friday for the first time since injuring his ankle against the Giants. His return comes one day after Rob Gronkowski also returned to the practice field.

The Patriots offense had not been its usual dominant self without these players in the lineup and their ability to practice shows they are both getting closer to returning. It is unlikely that either one with play on Sunday night in Houston, but the Patriots have a chance of getting them both back for the end of the regular season.

The key of course for New England is the playoffs and the team will have an eye  toward the postseason when making decisions regarding their returns. Being part of jogging and stretching and light practice work is a lot different from game action, and until Gronkowksi and Edelman begin participating in full pads workouts neither will be returning.

Overall, the return of Gronkowski and Edelman is a great sign for the Patriots. With both of these players fully healthy the Patriots offense was virtually unstoppable. If New England can get through this weekend with a win, they will have reinforcements on the way to make things easier in the coming weeks.

The Eagles came into Foxboro and defeated the Patriots 35-28 on Sunday. The loss marks the first time the Patriots have lost two games in a row since 2012. The win improves the Eagles to 5-7 and knocks the Patriots to 10-2 and out of the number one seed in the AFC.

The Patriots made several uncharacteristic mistakes in the loss. Their defense only allowed 14 points, but two special teams mistakes and a 100 yard interception return gave Philadelphia an extra 21 points.  The miscues started in the second quarter when the Patriots attempted a surprise onside drop-kick by Nate Ebner while up 14-0. The Eagles recovered and took advantage of the short field en route to their first touchdown.

Philadelphia blocked a punt with eight seconds to go in the first half and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 just before the break. The Patriots got to the one yard line in the third quarter but on third and goal from the five Tom Brady was intercepted and the interception was returned for 100 yards and a touchdown. Later in the quarter, Darren Sproles took a punt return 88 yards to the house and the Patriots were left stunned. The Eagles crossed the goal line for the final time with 11 minutes to go in the second half on a Sam Bradford touchdown pass.

A furious comeback effort was mounted by New England that came up short. The Patriots scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes to bring the game to 35-28 with three minutes to go. On the ensuing Eagles drive, Jamie Collins forced a fumble giving the Patriots a chance to tie it. The Patriots lost the ball on downs, the final series was highlighted by key drops by Brandon LaFell and Keyshawn Martin and a pass that went off the fingertips of Danny Amendola.

For the second week in a row, New England lost a game in which they held a 14 point lead. Next weeks Sunday night game in Houston is now a must win and it is likely the Patriots will need to win out in order to secure a first round playoff bye. The bye week in the playoffs has proven to be important for the Patriots; they’ve had a first round bye each of the six seasons that they reached the Super Bowl under Bill Belichick.

The Patriots, who have suffered several key injuries over the past month, are likely going to welcome some reinforcements back today. Both wide receiver Danny Amendola and linebacker Jamie Collins are both expected back today, providing a boost to their respective units.

Collins came down with an illness before the team’s game against the Redskins and has been out since then. Amendola sustained a leg injury in the Monday night game against Buffalo two weeks ago and missed last week’s trip to Denver.

The timing of the returns is fortuitous for New England. Dont’a Hightower is suffered a leg injury against Denver and is questionable to today’s game. With him out, the return of Collins is all the more important for the Patriots. The Patriots offense will be without Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski today and for the next several weeks so the return of Amendola provides the Patriots with a trusted option in the passing game.

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