Patriots

Week 17 milestones in sight

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Week 17 milestones in sight

The Patriots need a win against the Dolphins on Sunday. They also need the Broncos andor Texans to lose, in which case the Pats will earn a first round bye and maybe JUST MAYBE home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Of course, chances are that this won't happen, and the Pats will host either the Colts or Bengals in the Wild Card round, but you never know. Either way, here are a few milestones that the Pats will be playing for in Game No. 16.

Thomas Edward Brady:
Brady needs 11 pass attempts to set a new career high with 612 for the season.

He needs 23 completions to set a new career high with 402 for the season.

He needs 90 passing yards to pass Drew Bledsoe for ninth on the all-time list and a much less realistic 478 to become the ninth QB in NFL history to throw for 45,000 yards in his career.

Wesley Carter Welker:Welker needs 14 catches to set a career high with 124. That would be the second best reception total in NFL history, behind Marvin Harrison's ridiculous 143 in 2002.

With 10 catches, Welker will finish with 120 and own three of the top eight reception seasons in NFL history.

Brandon Matthew Lloyd:
For all the drama and criticism surrounding Lloyd's season, he needs only five catches to set a new career high with 78.

He needs 98 yards to break 1000 in a season for only the second time in his career.

In that case, Lloyd will become the 10th receiver in Patriots history to break 1000 yards, and the fifth to do so with Brady (Troy Brown, Randy Moss, Welker and Gronk are the others; Deion Branch missed by two yards in 2005).

Also, Welker and Lloyd could become the fourth set of Patriot teammates to surpass 1,000 yards in the same season, along with Welker and Gronk (last year), Welker and Moss (2007-2009), and Stanley Morgan and Harold Jackson (1979).

Stevan Todd Ridley:Ridley needs 39 yards for 1228 on the year, and that would be the fourth best single season rushing total in Pats history behind Corey Dillon (1635 in 2004), Curtis Martin (1487 in 1995) and Jim Nance (1458 in 1966).

Dillon and Martin both fumbled five times during their big seasons. Nance fumbled seven times. Heading into Sunday, Ridley has only four fumbles.

And let's wrap this up with a guy on the other side of the ball, one . . .

Vincent Lamar Wilfork:Vincent has already set career highs this season with six passes deflected, four fumble recoveries and three fumbles forced. That's a pretty solid trifecta. With two sacks on Sunday, he'll set a another career high with four on the season. Obviously, that's unlikely but at the end of the day none of this really matters.

Not as much as a win.

Which in turn, probably doesn't matter as much as a Texans andor Broncos loss.

But hey, good times.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.