Patriots

AFC EAST: Opportunistic Bills rout sloppy Raiders, 34-14

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AFC EAST: Opportunistic Bills rout sloppy Raiders, 34-14

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Rookie linebacker Matt Milano scored on a 40-yard fumble return on a rain-slick field, and the Buffalo Bills forced four turnovers in beating the Oakland Raiders 34-14 on Sunday.

Tyrod Taylor threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Andre Holmes and also scored on a 1-yard run for Buffalo. LeSean McCoy had a season-best 151 yards rushing and also scored on a 48-yard run.

The Bills improved to 4-0 at home for the first time since winning their first five home games of the 1995 season.

And Buffalo improved to 5-2, matching its best start during a 17-year postseason drought - the longest active streak in North America's four major professional sports.

The Bills' defense dominated despite missing two starting defensive backs, and two days after trading its highest-priced player, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus , to Jacksonville.

Milano, playing in place of injured starter Ramon Humber (broken right thumb), scored the go-ahead touchdown, putting Buffalo up 14-7, with 32 seconds left in the first half.

Raiders running back DeAndre' Washington caught a short pass over the middle and turned up field when he was struck by cornerback Leonard Johnson. The ball popped loose and flew directly into the hands of Milano, who returned it up the right sideline.

With a steady drizzle falling for much of the afternoon, the Raiders then turned the ball over on their first two possessions of the second half.

Milano forced Jalen Richard to fumble while returning a punt, with Mike Tolbert recovering it at the Raiders 14.

On Oakland's next possession, Derek Carr's pass over the middle was tipped by linebacker Preston Brown, and intercepted by safety Micah Hyde.

The turnovers led to Stephen Hauschka hitting 35- and 44-yard field goals.

Buffalo then took command by going ahead 27-7 on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Taylor capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive by scoring on fourth-and-inches.

Oakland (3-5) lost for the fourth time in five games, and was unable to carry over the momentum following its dramatic 31-30 come-from-behind victory over Kansas City on Oct. 19.

Carr finished 31 of 48 for 313 yards and a 4-yard touchdown to Washington and two interceptions. After scoring on their opening drive on Jamize Olawale's 1-yard run, the Raiders' next eight possessions ended with four punts, three turnovers and a failed bid to score at the end of the second quarter.

The Bills continue relying on an opportunistic defense, which has forced three or more turnovers in each of their past four games.

That included a 30-27 win over Tampa Bay last weekend in which rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White forced and recovered receiver Adam Humphries' fumble to set up Hauschka's 30-yard game-winning field goal with 14 seconds left.

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Would WWE outbid Patriots for Gronkowski?

Would WWE outbid Patriots for Gronkowski?

If Rob Gronkowski is serious about leaving football to become a wrestler, it probably won't be for the kind of money the Patriots are paying him, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer tells WEEI.

“I think that is more of a Gronkowski is going to make the call himself and I don’t think it is WWE is trying to — they are not going to outbid him," Meltzer told WEEI "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show on Thursday. "They are not going to spend $10 million a year on him. But, if he’s done with football, are they interested in him? Yeah, it is pretty clear they are."

Meltzer reported last week that World Wrestling Entertainment was interested in signing Gronk to a "similar style" deal to that of Ronda Rousey, who left UFC to join WWE for a reported $5 million a year. Gronkowski is scheduled to make $8.6 million from the Patriots in 2018. 

Meltzer cited NFL-turned-wrestling examples of James Laurinaitis, Kevin Greene and Brock Lesnar as the footsteps Gronk could follow. 

"Now, can you do it on a Brock Lesnar schedule of 10 matches a year? Yeah, probably. Lesnar was a unique type of character. He made probably $5 million-plus a year in wrestling the last couple of years.

Gronkowski is also said to be contemplating a career as an action movie star. 

Here's more on Gronk from NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. 

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Not many needs for young interior offensive line of Patriots

Not many needs for young interior offensive line of Patriots

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent to that area, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today we're looking at a spot where the Patriots are completely set . . . we think: interior offensive line. 

OTHER ENTRIES IN THE SERIES

HOW THEY PERFORMED: It wasn't always pretty, particularly at the outset of the season when Tom Brady was being hit at a rate that rivaled years when he was most battered. And the way the season ended for this group -- with Shaq Mason allowing a sack to Philly's Brandon Graham that helped end the Super Bowl -- was obviously less than ideal. But that shouldn't overshadow how this group performed, particularly in the second half. Mason was a borderline Pro Bowl talent (Pro Football Focus' fourth-best grade at right tackle for 2017), pairing his devastating run-blocking with a vastly-improved ability to protect. David Andrews continued to play solidly and effectively make calls from his place as the line's pivot, getting through the season as PFF's No. 4-graded center. And while Joe Thuney had occasional issues with power rushers, he graded out as PFF's seventh-best left guard. Three top-10 players at their respective spots? And a reliable all-around backup in Ted Karras (three total pressures and one bad snap in two starts at center)? Plenty of teams around the league would love to be as solid up front. 

 

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018: Thuney, Mason, Andrews, Karras, James Ferentz, Jason King

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED: Not dire. At all, really. It's a 1 out of 10. They have three young, relatively healthy, improving players who will come back in 2018 and should slot in as immediate starters. The No. 1 backup at all three interior spots, Karras, is back as well. Ferentz is veteran depth piece who spent last season on the team's practice squad and was given a future contract by the team soon after the Super Bowl. Jason King (and Cole Croston who can play both guard and tackle) will also be back with the team when offseason training begins. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY: The best guard on the market was one of the best guards in the league in 2017: Carolina's Andrew Norwell. Other veterans who will garner interest on the market? Colts 2014 second-round pick Jack Mewhort and former Patriots starter Josh Kline. Jonathan Cooper, briefly a Patriot, will also be back on the market this offseason. Will the Patriots be interested in any of them? My guess is no, unless the team is put in an impossible situation at left tackle and they want to try Thuney on the outside, freeing up their left guard spot . . . but that's a pretty far-fetched scenario at this point. Even though Thuney played tackle in college, the Patriots drafted him to play on the inside. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT: Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson will be fascinating to track on draft day. The 330-pound guard is considered by some to be one of the two or three best football players in the draft. He's touted by experts as a surefire longtime starter with All-Pro potential. But he's a guard. Are teams going to be willing to spend a top-10 or top-15 pick on a position that is ably filled by late-round picks and undrafted players all over the league? Nelson's an interesting case study in that regard. It's a pretty strong draft class at the top, it seems. Georgia's Isaiah Wynn and Texas-El Paso's Will Hernandez have received first-round buzz, as have a few centers: Iowa's James Daniels, Arkansas' Frank Ragnow and Ohio State's Billy Price. Then there are the tackles-who-may-be-guards-at-the-next-level. Texas' Connor Williams, who we mentioned in our tackle assessment, is the biggest name who could end up getting kicked inside. 

HOW THE PATRIOTS CAN ADDRESS IT: There really isn't much to address, in my opinion. However, there's a little wrinkle here that's worth keeping in mind. The Patriots were reportedly interested in drafting Indiana's center/guard prospect Dan Feeney in the third round last year. They had the 72nd pick. He ended up going to the Chargers at No. 71. The Patriots traded down for a pair of picks when Feeney was gone. One was used to get defensive end Derek Rivers. The other helped them snag tackle Tony Garcia. Why the interest in Feeney? His size (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) and athletic profile (7.52-second three-cone, 101-inch broad jump) actually compared somewhat favorably to those of Logan Mankins (6-4, 307, 7.52-second three-cone, 95-inch broad jump). The idea of having him at center, between Thuney and Mason, could've been enticing. So will the Patriots jump at the chance to add a similarly-gifted player to play in the middle if the opportunity presents itself? Never say never, but I don't think so. Andrews received an extension after the draft, keeping him in New England through 2020, and he was named a captain before the 2017 season.

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