Patriots

Pats were wary of wind on perfect night for Stephen Gostkowski

Pats were wary of wind on perfect night for Stephen Gostkowski

As Nick Folk could surely tell you, kicking conditions were not optimal Thursday night. 

Folk missed all three of his field goal attempts (56, 49 and 31 yards) in the Patriots’ 19-14 win over Tampa Bay. By the time he lined up for his 31-yarder in the fourth quarter, perhaps his confidence was rattled enough from his two misses on longer kicks made the shorter one more daunting than usual. Yet that wasn’t the only factor in play. 

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NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry noted that Bill Belichick and safeties coach Stephen Belichick were on the field checking the wind before the game, with the head coach gesturing from the Tampa sideline to the New England sideline. Belichick admitted Friday that the wind at Raymond James Stadium was fickle enough to dissuade the Pats from attempting a long field goal late. 

With the Pats facing fourth-and-12 from the Tampa 33 with 10:59 to play, the Patriots opted to punt rather than have Stephen Gostkowski — who had already hit a 45-yarder and was three-for-three on the night at that point — attempt a 50-yard field goal. 

“The wind was a crosswind. It was blowing from their bench to our bench. I don't think it was really favoring one direction or the other. Maybe a little bit towards the pirate ship end, but it seemed like mostly it was blowing across, but it was gusting. It wasn't consistent. It would at times die down and you wouldn't feel much and then other times it would kick up and was much more noticeable,” Belichick said. 

“I think that's always the toughest situation for a field goal kicker and it’s tough for the punters on the drop because you think the ball is going to drop flat but it gusts and then it might not. Then you have a hard time hitting it properly on your foot. I don't think it affected the passing game too much. Those balls are a lot lower and are less affected by that type of wind. The kicking game, for sure, and then the way they had that field marking there, too, kicking off that flag where the field is dyed, same thing in the end zone, just a little different surface than what it is on the grass part of it with the paint or however that's done. It's just not quite as consistent of a surface there all the way around. Yes, that played into that decision a little bit. The wind, the distance and the surface all combined.”

The Pats would attempt a long field goal two drives later after the Bucs had cut New England’s lead to two points. Gostkowski drilled a 48-yarder to make him a perfect four-for-four on the night and make it a five-point game with 1:10 to play. 

Yet when the Pats didn’t need to risk it, they didn’t. The lead was at nine points when the Pats opted to punt over going for the 50-yarder in the fourth. 

“Stephen's kicking the ball great, so he probably would've made those, but if you were to miss one there then you give them the ball at the 42,43, 40-yard line – whatever it is – and then compared to being able to have an opportunity to down the ball, let's say around the five or so. You give up 35 yards of field position. That's what the risk is for the three points, but when we gained that – whatever it was – five or six yards there on the last play to get it from the 35 or 36 – whatever it was – from a 53-yard field goal to, like, a 45-yard field goal, so it would've been 52, 53 to 47, right? Forty-eight – whatever the last quick was. That was a big five yards in the decision process.”

Belichick’s numbers were off just a bit — it was really a two-yard difference between the kick the Pats avoided and the one they attempted. Either way, both decisions paid off in the win. 

Vikings hold off Lions 30-23 to extend win streak to 7

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Vikings hold off Lions 30-23 to extend win streak to 7

DETROIT = Case Keenum threw for two touchdowns and ran for a score in the first half to give the Minnesota Vikings a double-digit lead and they went on to win a seventh straight game, 30-23 over the Lions in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. Click here to read more. 

Pats can find reasons for thanks everywhere

Pats can find reasons for thanks everywhere

The Patriots hit Thanksgiving with an 8-2 record, a stranglehold on first place in the AFC East, and a rest-of-the-season schedule -- save for the much-anticipated meeting with the Steelers on Dec. 17 -- almost bereft of quality opponents. So they have a lot to be thankful for.

But here are some things you may not be aware of . . . 

SURGICAL-GRADE DIPPED LATEX TUBING

Whoever came up with the stuff Tom Brady's resistance bands are made out of -- it's actually "surgical-grade dipped latex tubing sheathed in ballistic nylon," according to the TB12 website -- probably deserves a tip of the cap from the entire region. The 40-year-old uses the bands extensively as part of his training regimen, and he currently leads the league in passing yards, yards per attempt, quarterback rating, rating under pressure and touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

SUSAN SCARNECCHIA

Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was retired just a couple of years ago. He traveled. He spent time with his grandchildren. Then the Patriots called. After some time to think about it -- and after talking it over with his wife Susan -- Scarnecchia opted to come back after two years away from the game. At 69 years old, he's helped this year's unit overcome some early-season struggles, and he still seems to be on top of his game. Think the Patriots are happy he had his wife's blessing to jump back in? 

ELECTRONIC TABLETS

You weren't expecting this, were you? Bill Belichick has said he's not a fan . . . but that's on game days. "I’m done with the tablets," he said last year. "I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me." But when it comes to players using tablets on their own time? They're incredibly useful. Whereas years ago players would have to come into the facility early or stay late in order to watch extra film, now they can study from the comfort of their own homes, on a team flight, or while riding in a car (as long as they aren't driving). For teams that have players who want to be over-prepared, having access to all-22 video at any time can be an advantage. 

DR. ROBERT WATKINS

Who's this, you ask? He's the Los Angeles-based back specialist who operated on Rob Gronkowski's back last year. He operated on the big tight end in 2009 and 2013, and his latest procedure seems to be holding up as well as possible. Gronkowski quickly regained his strength and athleticism, and he continues to be his team's most dynamic offensive weapon. He has 41 catches for 619 yards and five scores this season, and he's been used extensively as a blocker in the running game and in pass protection. Gronkowski deserves credit -- as does the Patriots medical, training and nutrition staffs -- for being so effective in his return to the field, but the Patriots are probably thankful that last year's back surgery went as well as it did.  

FLOWERS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY

Trey Flowers has been arguably his team's most dependable defender this season. According to Pro Football Focus, he's been on the field for 606 snaps, which is fourth among edge defenders. His 338 pass-rush snaps are second among 4-3 defensive ends, per PFF. He's played through injury at times, and he's remained productive. Against the Raiders he had three quarterback hits and three hurries. So why would the Patriots be thankful for Flowers Construction Co.? That's the Huntsville, Alabama company run by Flowers' father, Robert, who put Trey to work when he was growing up. The work ethic he learned on-site has helped him go from a fourth-round pick who lost most of his rookie season to injury into a playing-time iron man and one of the team's most reliable defenders.

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