Curran: What to look out for during Patriots-Jaguars


Curran: What to look out for during Patriots-Jaguars

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Football. Finally. Here a few storylines to look out for during Thursday's preseason clash with the Jag-wires of Jacksonville. 1. Mind-Bendingly Early ProclamationsLast August 27, the Patriots lost a preseason game to the Rams 36-35. Devin McCourty looked bad, twice biting on double-moves and appearing every bit an overmatched rookie cornerback. Less than five months later, he was a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro. Remember that when Nate Solder gets turnstiled for a sack or Ryan Mallett goes 9 for 11 for 141 yards and a touchdown. This is a snapshot of where they are now, not where they will be. In fact, if the 4-3 defensive set gets no pressure and Blaine Gabbert shreds the Patriots defense, that's not so terrible. It shines a light on what needs tweaking. 2. The Talented Mr. RidleyOne of the consistent standouts to the early practices in Foxboro has been third round rookie running back Stevan Ridley. Every practice he's out there taking rep after rep and his combination of lateral quickness, hands and acceleration are a very nice surprise given I thought he was going to be more of a between-the-tackles runner. I'm very interested in watching him carry against the Jags defense. 3. Mallett vs. HoyerThe one thing that leaps out when anyone not named Tom Brady is taking snaps? How loooong it takes them to make a decision in the passing game. Just an observation. Brady is really good at what he does and Hoyer isn't even out of the NFL quarterbacking womb yet. And Mallett just showed up. But it will be worth watching the way the two younger quarterbacks run the offense. Mallett is just a pure, downhill thrower, the ball coming right over the top with a little loop inhis delivery. His motion reminds me of Randall Cunningham (NOT his mobility). Hoyer is a little more Jeff Garcia-like in decisions and throwing style (not his mobility, either). Hoyer should play a lot better than Mallett. But if Mallett plays well, that's a very good sign for the competition at backup quarterback. 4. Secondary rotationFigure the starters at corner will be McCourty and Leigh Bodden. Who is the nickel? Figuring it should be Kyle Arrington. Where do Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite fit in the mix? And rookie Malcolm Williams? If Butler or Wilhite are on the field in the closing minutes, that's not a good sign for either. Meanwhile, with James Sanders likely down because of missed practice time recently, Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather figure to be the starters. Chung's had an outstanding camp. Meriweather has not. 5.Practice success to game resultsBeyond Ridley and Chung looking so solid, the entire tight end crew has been impressive. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez figured to make strides in their second years but some of the catches they've made have been ridiculous. And the inability of the secondary tomatch up successfully has been just as eye-opening. Undrafted Will Yeatman and fellow rookie Lee Smith are massive players both apparently more suited for the in-line blocking role of the tight end. But both of them have shown excellent hands in practice as well. 6. One gap or twoFirst sampling. Let's take a hard look and see whether the Patriots are having their defensive linemen hold up the Jags' linemen on first and second down or whether they try to shoot gaps. 7. Embrace the scrubsThere are currently 90 players in camp. There are a lot of down-the-roster decisions to be made and there are several players in states of disrepair -- Sanders, Albert Haynesworth, Brandon Tate, Ras-I Dowling, Shaun Ellis, Brandon Spikes, Kevin Faulk, Matt Light and Dan Connolly among them. Bill Belichick indicated this week players who hadn't practiced by Tuesday may not play. He also said to not expect starters to play big minutes. So look for a cavalcade of young guys. And the sloppiness that may accompany their presence. Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31


Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."


Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.


Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.


Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.


EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders


EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders

0:55 - Patriots playing great as they stream roll the Raiders but Koppen explains that Belichick will knock them down as he strives for perfection. Also talk about how it takes a couple months into the season for the coaches and players to learn each other again.

5:40 - Stephon Gilmore playing excellent lined up against Michael Crabtree. Malcolm Butler bounces back but gives up the only score to Amari Cooper. Koppen suggest Butler’s contract situation might be affecting his play. 

7:50 - All in on the Patriots defense yet? Giardi and Koppen discuss the defensive play and the upcoming offenses the Patriots will be facing.

10:30 - Dan Koppen talks about job security in the NFL and if he ever worried about somebody else taking his job, and the cutthroat nature of the Patriots. 

13:50 - Tom Brady picking apart the Raiders and Jack Del Rio’s defenses throughout his career. 

17:45 - A debate about Patriots backup quarterbacks and if Matt Cassel was actually a good NFL QB. 

21:20 - A few game notes: Rex Burkhead’s fumble vs. the Raiders, LaAdrian Waddle filling in for Marcus Cannon.