Curran: Pats manhandled by Lions


Curran: Pats manhandled by Lions

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran DETROIT - A porous offensive line and a permissive secondary were a bad combination for the Patriots in Detroit Saturday night. In what's normally the showcase preseason - or at least the one taken most seriously - the Lions riddled New England's secondary for 272 first-half passing yards and took a 27-10 lead into halftime en route to a 34-10 whipping of the Pats. Matthew Stafford went 12-for-14 for 200 yards with two touchdown passes and backup Shaun Hill came on to go 5-of-9 for 80 yards and another touchdown. And it wasn't all Calvin Johnson. He had one catch for 30 yards. The rest of the Lions wideouts took advantage of a muted Patriots pass rush, some brilliantly placed throws by Stafford and some miscommunications and bad play in the secondary. Corner Kyle Arrington was beaten for two scores - one on a missed jam on tight end Tony Scheffler, another on a slant to Nate Burleson. Corner Devin McCourty was beaten three times on completions (one was a terrific adjustment by Johnson) and was also beaten on an end-zone fade that was dropped. Linebacker Jerod Mayo got beaten on back-to-back completions at the end of the half. The first, he was singled up on a running back. On the second, he appeared to think safety Patrick Chung should have been giving support. Bad as the secondary was, the work of the Patriots offensive line was more troubling. It was a half-long jailbreak in front of Tom Brady who went 11 of 20 for 142 yards and one 44-yard touchdown to Wes Welker. Brady was sacked twice and hit several other times. Right guard Sebastian Vollmer had a loooong half dealing with a rotation of rushers off the right side. Nate Solder, in at left tackle after Matt Light got the start, got bull-rushed and tossed at Brady's feet on the quarterback's one pick. Brady had no time to complete any passes to outside receivers. Chad Ochocinco was targeted once. That was the pick. Deion Branch saw no passes his way. Taylor Price had two balls thrown to him. Welker actually appeared to suffer a shoulder or neck injury when making the tackle after the pick. Trainers checked him out when he came to the sidelines. Welker didn't make it back in the second half with what was described as a neck injury. It wasn't a great half for Ocho who also had an offensive hold that wiped out a 15-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski. He also had a drop in the third quarter on a simple in-cut thrown by Brian Hoyer who came on in the third. Even when not pressured, Brady wasn't especially sharp. He missed Welker on a seam route that he normally makes with ease. Right guard Dan Connolly left after two series with an apparent injury. His replacement, Rich Ohrnberger was turnstiled time after time. Among the missing for the Patriots on Saturday night were corners Leigh Bodden and Ras-I Dowling, defensive linemen Mike Wright, Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis, linebackers Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher and running back Shane Vereen. Brandon Tate, back after missing last week's game in Tampa, had two kickoff returns for a total of 27 yards. James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather got the start at the safety spots. The Patriots opened with a 4-2 set with five defensive backs.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Bortles silencing critics while earning respect from teammates, Patriots

Bortles silencing critics while earning respect from teammates, Patriots

Blake Bortles doesn’t care that you think he sucks. Why should he? “It’s a waste of time,” says the Jacksonville quarterback. He’s just one win away from playing in the Super Bowl and is set to earn 19 million dollars next year. Life is good. But man oh man, the vitriol sent his way via fellow NFL defenders is rather staggering.

MORE - Getting ready for the AFC Championship Game

Bottles has been called a choker by Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, subpar by Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, and Texans edge rusher JaDaveon Clowney trashed the Jags QB by calling him trash. Yet all three of those guys are on vacation while Bortles is still working, preparing for the AFC title game in Foxboro Sunday afternoon. 

“He’s a dog,” shouted defensive tackle Malik Jackson in the immediate aftermath of last weekend’s win at Pittsburgh. “I want to know what Jurell Casey has to say about him choking in big moments while you sit at home and watch us next week.”

Jackson’s fiery defense of Bortles is not an uncommon event in the Jacksonville locker room. Yes their quarterback has flaws - we’ll get to those in a minute - but he’s their ride or die, at least for now.

“Blake is a rockstar,” said defensive lineman Calais Campbell. “He doesn’t let any of that get to him. He keeps showing up every day, having fun, preparing as hard as he can. We have a lot of respect for him. He’ definitely loves the game. He handles his business."

“One thing I learned about Blake is when you talk negative about him he proves you wrong over and over again,” said cornerback A.J. Bouye. “He did it against Seattle, he did it versus Pittsburgh the first time, he did it again versus Pittsburgh this time. That’s who he is.”

As you would imagine, that support is everything to Bortles.

“I don’t care much about what is said outside our locker room,” said Bortles. “What I care about is inside that locker room. Those are the opinions I care about. When other people say stuff, it doesn’t bother me. But to see guys in that locker room stand up for me and say stuff, it’s pretty cool. Because those are the opinions I value and the guys I want to impress and do well for.”

Bortles was hardly the star Sunday in Pittsburgh. He barely completed over 50% of his passes one week after running for more yards (88) than he threw for (87) in a Wild Card round win over the Bills. But Bortles didn’t turn the ball over in either game, something that has been a problem for him not only in years past but late in the regular season. Yes, he was inaccurate at times and appeared nervous at others but the Patriots could only shake their heads and laugh when told about the comments other players have directed at the 25-year old.

“It’s kind of crazy,” smiled Devin McCourty, “you know, the guy is still playing football. All those guys that said that, I’m sure they want to be in his spot right now playing in the championship game…the guy is a winner. Whether it’s dropping back and throwing the deep ball in a drive where Pittsburgh cuts it to seven and you need to make a big play and he stays in the pocket and finds [T.J.] Yeldon after surveying the field. Or in other games, against Buffalo, he drops back, they drop into coverage, everybody has their back to him, and he scrambles for 15 yards [and] a big first down to keep the drive going. To me, you see a winner.”

“He’s a good quarterback,” said Duron Harmon. “He does what they want him to do. He checks them, gets them in the right place, makes the right throws. Just try to do his job effectively and he did it at a high level yesterday. Made a lot of plays on third down. Made them with his arm, made them with his feet. He’s obviously somebody who feels comfortable in the system. Plays well and has been making plays for them all year. We know he’s going to come ready to play…”

Hard to believe Bortles is ready to lift the Jags past the Pats all on his own. He needs a good running game, he needs his receivers to make plays for him, and he needs that defense to figure out a way to slow down Tom Brady. That’s a lot to ask, but the Jags with Bortles at quarterback are this close to something few thought possible before the season started, just a win away from a trip to the Super Bowl. Maybe that belief in Bortles is about to be rewarded…


Patriots place CB Jonathan Jones on injured reserve, sign PR Bernard Reedy


Patriots place CB Jonathan Jones on injured reserve, sign PR Bernard Reedy

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will have to go the remainder of the season without one of their top special teams players. 

Jonathan Jones was placed on injured reserve Wednesday after suffering what appeared to be an injury to his left leg during the Divisional Round against the Titans. Jones was in coverage on Eric Decker in the fourth quarter when he broke with Decker to move toward the sideline before crumpling to the turf. He reached for his left foot/ankle area after the play and remained down for several moments. He did walk off the field under his own power after medical 

Without Jones, the Patriots will have to find another gunner for their punt units. Jones is also one of the better kickoff coverage players on the Patriots. The move the Patriots may make without him will be to activate Johnson Bademosi on game day. Bademosi was a healthy scratch against the Titans but has ample experience on special teams and will serve as a reserve corner, as Jones did. 

Matthew Slater said it won't be one player, though, who makes up for Jones' absence. 

"He does a lot of things for us and he does a lot of things well," Slater said. "And he’s done that since he’s gotten here. He’s been consistent. He’s improved day after day. It’s going to take a lot of guys stepping up, doing their job just a little bit better. A few guys in different roles. You don’t replace him with one guy."

The Patriots added punt-returner Bernard Reedy to the roster to take Jones' open roster spot. Reedy was signed to the Patriots practice squad in November and elevated to the active roster soon thereafter. He was later released, re-signed to the p-squad, and released from the p-squad earlier this month. He played in nine games with the Bucs and returned 14 punts and seven kicks for averages of 10.2 and 20.7 yards, respectively. 

Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis are the team's primary punt and kick-returners, but Reedy could serve as insurance for both in those roles.