Patriots

Gilmore finds himself in tight corner after crucial mistakes vs. Panthers

Gilmore finds himself in tight corner after crucial mistakes vs. Panthers

FOXBORO -- If Stephon Gilmore was looking for a smooth transition from Buffalo to New England, he’s out of luck. The Patriots' newest and most expensive cornerback has found himself at the center of a maelstrom.

Week after week, every time you look up, it’s Gilmore who is either getting beat for a big play, in the general vicinity of a big play, or getting flagged for critical penalties that extend eventual scoring drives.

PANTHERS 33, PATRIOTS 30

The latest nightmare on Patriot Place happened Sunday in a 33-30 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The earliest example was a 28-yard scoring strike to Fozzy Whittaker that saw both Gilmore and Devin McCourty adjust to motion and leave the entire backside of the play wide open. You’d be hard pressed to think of another time when the Pats defense left someone that alone. 

The ensuing drive, there was an issue with Eric Rowe that let Devin Funchess slip into the end zone unencumbered and uncovered. Score another touchdown for the previously point-challenged Panthers.

As if those weren’t enough, Gilmore was whistled for a pair of hands-to-the-face penalties, both on third downs, both negating positive defensive plays. Cam Newton and company took advantage of both occasions. The first led to Funchess’ second TD, which gave Carolina a 23-16 lead.

That came at a bad time. The second came at the worst.

Deitrich Wise sacked Newton on third down, just three plays after the Patriots had rallied from two scores down to tie the game, 30-30, late in the fourth quarter, but the play was negated by another penalty against Gilmore. Instead of having to punt -- and giving Tom Brady a chance for yet another last-minute gate-winning drive -- the Panthers were given a first down. They then marched on, recording a couple more first downs and eventually kicking the game-winning field goal at the clock struck zero.

“iI was surprised,” said Gilmore of the second penalty, “but I was playing aggressive. I don’t know what else I can do.” 

Play better. That's a no-brainer. Although in Gilmore’s eyes, this isn’t a physical issue; rather, it’s all about a secondary and a defense that isn’t on the same page.

“It’s communication,” he said. “We gotta get better on the communication. I gotta get better on the communication.”

That’d word -- communication -- came up repeatedly in the nearly six-minute interview with the soft-spoken corner; 11 times by count. Gilmore isn’t wearing down from the expectations that happen the moment you get paid and Malcolm Butler doesn’t, but it’s also troublesome to him, for sure.

“It’s frustrating when it’s communication, when it’s not ability,” Gilmore said. “I gotta get better at the communication part. It’s my fault on the communication.”

That remains to be seen. The Pats aren’t into revealing who screwed up and who didn’t, but the fact that Gilmore didn’t start the third quarter in base defense may very well be an indication that the coaching staff was putting some -- if not all -- of the blame on Gilmore. Or he could have had an equipment issue. It’s a moot point anyway, as Eric Rowe re-injured his groin on that very play and put Gilmore back into the spotlight.

“I’m a corner," said Gilmore. "It’s my sixth year. Got a short-term memory. So I can handle it.”

He needs to, and that needs to happen sooner rather than later. Or the Pats might just have a problem that they just can’t fix.

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Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski both sat out of the entirety of Wednesday's practice at Gillette Stadium. 

Brady is dealing with an Achilles injury, per the injury report released by the Patriots. The Boston Herald has reported that Brady will play despite the issue. It's unclear when exactly Brady suffered the injury, but Brady was hit low by Raiders pass-rusher Khalil Mack in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and Mack was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty.

Gronkowski, like teammate David Andrews, is dealing with an illness. Patrick Chung, who left Sunday's game briefly, has an ankle issue. 

Here's the full injury report for both the Patriots and Dolphins . . . 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
C David Andrews (illness)
QB Tom Brady (Achilles)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
S Patrick Chung (ankle)
TE Rob Gronkowski (illness)
WR Chris Hogan (shoulder)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (knee)
TE Marellus Bennett (shoulder/hamstring)
DT Malcom Brown (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)

MIAMI DOLPHINS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
LB Stephone Anthony (quadriceps)
G Jermon Bushrod (foot)
QB Jay Cutler (concussion)
DE William Hayes (back)
T Laremy Tunsill (illness)

FULL PARTICIPATION
RB Senorise Perry (knee)
S Michael Thomas (knee)

 

Curran: Randy Moss better not have to wait for Hall call

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Curran: Randy Moss better not have to wait for Hall call

If you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer. The notion that a great player’s candidacy has to have some kind of gestation period before it can be deemed induction-worthy is just plain cruel.

And if you think “cruel” is an overstatement, consider Ken Stabler. Three times a Hall of Fame finalist, Snake had to croak before Pro Football Hall of Fame voters decided it was time to put him in Canton.

There are borderline guys whose candidacies need to marinate. There are players whose contributions to an era take on greater meaning as time passes. You could make the case Stabler was one of those.

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You could also make the case that too many HOF voters in each of the major sports get caught up in a “guardian at the gate” mentality, puffing out birdlike chests until they align with swollen stomachs and declaring an athlete’s not getting inducted on HIS watch.

Or until said athlete’s served time in purgatory and either begs for induction or says, “F--- it, I don’t care if I get in at this point anyway.

Which brings me to Terrell Owens and how his HOF candidacy will impact Randy Moss.

Moss was a better player than T.O. Historic. The second he entered the league in 1998, he was probably one of the five best players in the league at any position. Owens took a while. He didn’t make a Pro Bowl until his fifth NFL season.

Moss was a technician and a savant. Owens just wrestled the game to the ground with brute force.

When measuring what a player “means” to the NFL and its fans, a reasonable Moss comp is Allen Iverson. They were iconic. Owens? Dwight Howard. Where T.O. felt needy, desperate and narcissistic. Moss just didn’t GAF.

And that’s where some voters start to rub their hands together and scheme.

How can we exact revenge for perceived crimes against football and propriety? Make 'em sweat. Use incidents, moments and comments as cudgels and pound penance out of them.

Even though Moss was better than T.O., that doesn’t mean Owens is borderline. Owens is second in all-time yards (Moss is third), eighth in receptions (Moss is 15th), third in touchdowns (Moss is second) and was a five-time All-Pro (Moss was a four-time All-Pro).

The only justification for voters keeping T.O. out the past two years was that he was a prick.

Few – if any - of his ex-teammates say that he should be kept out of the HOF for that. But scores of people in the media, ex-players and league lobbyists do think he should be kept out. At least until he learns his lesson, or whatever.

Owens’ narcissism chewed at the fabric of franchises he was a part of, is the contention. That’s why he played for five teams. That’s why he only played in one Super Bowl. That’s why tears weren’t shed when he signed someplace else.

Moss also played for five teams. He also played in just one Super Bowl (like Owens, Moss’ ’07 Patriots lost though Moss – like Owens – did his part to win). And tears weren’t shed too often when Moss left either.

Check this Tom Brady quote from September 2010. It came just days before Moss began shooting his way out of New England because he was unhappy the team wouldn’t extend his deal.

"There's only one Randy Moss that will ever play this game," Brady said. "He's the greatest, probably, downfield receiver in the history of the NFL. Those catches that he makes, where you guys see he runs 65 yards down the field, you throw it and he just runs and catches it. That's impossible to do.And I ask him, 'How did you do that?' And he says, 'I don't know, man. I've been doing it for a long time.' He has some special skills that nobody's really gifted with." 

That weekend, Moss gave his “This probably will be my last year here as a Patriot…” press conference after a season-opening win over the Bengals. The next week, he caught two of 10 passes that Brady threw his way in a loss to the Jets. One of the passes was a touchdown pass where he blew past Darrelle Revis and made a one-handed pull. Two of the other passes were picked off and Moss was non-competitive. After that, he was effectively frozen out of the offense and was traded after Week 4, less than a month after Brady accurately described him as the greatest downfield receiver in the history of the NFL.

Stuff like that, nudging a traffic cop for a half-block with his car stating “I’ll play when I want to play…,” fake-mooning the Lambeau Stadium crowd, saying he still smoked weed “once in a blue moon” – all those occasions will be aggregated and used as cudgels used to beat down Moss’ candidacy just as the driveway situps are used to beat down T.O.’s.

Whole bunch of voters will hand-wring about what it all meeeaaaannnnnsssss if they sweep Moss in on the first ballot after keeping T.O. out. And then wonder if T.O. should go in before Moss, after Moss or with him. Meanwhile, they’ll rush to get Ray Lewis in line for his gold jacket with nary a word about disappearing white suits 

The whole “between the lines is all that matters” defense.

Randy Moss belongs in the Hall of Fame. ASAP.