Patriots

Screen game providing little to no value - in Belichick's eyes

Screen game providing little to no value - in Belichick's eyes

FOXBORO -- During the second quarter of a one-score game Sunday. Tom Brady has the Patriots line up in twins left but motions Philip Dorsett back toward the wide side, breaking twins and leaving Brandin Cooks isolated one-on-one with the corner. At the snap, Cooks takes two steps up the field before sharply driving back to his original starting point. Left tackle Nate Solder bluffs as if he’s going to block inside before peeling back to get in front of a wide receiver screen the Pats have run hundreds of times over the years. Only this time Brady’s throw is low and off the mark, forcing Cooks to go down and get it. At the same time, Solder and Joe Thuney, who’s also out in space, both whiff on their blocks. Cooks can’t even get to the line of scrimmage. It goes down as a loss of two.
 
The Pats would go back to the screen game in the third quarter. This time Brady operates out of shotgun, with Rex Burkhead as the single back. Burkhead is the target, but he gets hung up with defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, which is to say Phillips got away with a quick but effective hold. Meanwhile, the action of the play fools no one in the Dolphins’ front 7. Thuney is unable to maneuver past Phillips and never ahead of the play. Center Ted Karras takes a shot at Kiko Alonso but fails to get even the smallest piece of the linebacker. Burkhead gains just two yards.

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Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would go to the well one more time, dialing up a double screen late in that same quarter. It came out of a trips right formation, with Brady initially pumping toward one of those three receivers, Dorsett. He then wheeled back to his left to hit Dion Lewis. Karras once again took his best shot and missed - this time it was Lawrence Timmons - ending up flat on his face. Lewis still managed to gain 4 yards, however, there was one of those pesky yellow flags on the field. Cooks was nailed for offensive pass interference as he tried to block before the pass was in the air. That negated what few positive yards there were. 
 
Welcome to the 2017 Patriots screen game, which is providing little to no value - at least in Bill Belichick’s eyes.
 
“Our screen game hasn't been as productive as we need it to be,” he said during Tuesday’s conference call. “We need to, obviously, coach it better and execute it better. We're not getting enough out of it. It's disappointing.”
 
But, I reasoned on the call with him, couldn’t these plays still have a positive influence on the overall game, slowing down a quarterback thirsty defense like the one the Pats just faced in Miami and will again this weekend in Buffalo?
 
“I don't know. Based on what we're gaining on them, they should be happy every time we run one,” he deadpanned.
 
Ok then. 
 
So why go there if the execution continues to be poor? McDaniels sees more benefit in the calls than his boss.
 
"Obviously you're trying to counter teams' aggressiveness,” said McDaniels. “You know, there's a lot of good defensive linemen in this league, a lot of good pass rushers, so if you can create a couple big plays on some screens, it's not going to stop them from rushing, but it may make them think about rushing a little bit more under control at times. They know you have the play, they know you have the scheme, and they have to defend against that. I think there is some value – there's a lot of value in a lot of things you do, even though maybe necessarily each play isn't a huge play itself. The other team has to spend time on it.”
 
But after the Raiders held the Pats to 7 yards on 3 screens, and the Fins put Brady and company in the loss category, it would seem to be more of a wasted play than McDaniels would admit. What’s odd about it is the amount of time to Pats spend working on this discipline. They also have the personnel to do it quite well. But sometimes what’s on paper doesn’t translate on the field for one reason or another, which leads me back to Belichick.
 
“We've run a lot of different types of screens – receivers, backs, tight ends, quick screens, slower screens,” he said. “We're just not doing a good job. I've got to do a better job of coaching them and we've got to do a better job of executing them. It's as simple as that.”

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Panthers owner Richardson selling NFL team

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Panthers owner Richardson selling NFL team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Carolina Panthers have announced that owner Jerry Richardson is selling the NFL franchise amid an investigation by the league into allegations of sexual and racist misconduct by Richardson in the workplace.

The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.

Richardson said in the open letter "I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership. Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of the NFL season."

The NFL awarded Richardson an expansion franchise in 1993 and he has been the team's only owner.

The letter did not directly address the investigation.

Jimmy Garoppolo leads 49ers to third straight win

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Jimmy Garoppolo leads 49ers to third straight win

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Jimmy Garoppolo led one final scoring drive in the closing seconds to cap a fantastic first home start, Robbie Gould kicked a game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired, and the San Francisco 49ers topped the Tennessee Titans 25-23 on Sunday.

Garoppolo threw for a career-high 381 yards and a touchdown during a dominant day to give the 49ers (4-10) a three-game winning streak in a lost season. And Tom Brady's former backup showed he could do it at home as well as on the road - and against a playoff contender, no less - outdueling Marcus Mariota down the stretch as the teams traded field goals.

Gould kicked three of his six field goals over the final nine minutes: 50, 48 and 45 yards and has now gone 20 consecutive without a miss.

Gould put the Niners out front on a 48-yarder with 3:08 remaining. Mariota then drove the Titans (8-6) to a lead as Ryan Succop kicked a 50-yard field goal with 1:07 to play, then Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense got one last shot.

It took three tries this season, and first-year coach Kyle Shanahan finally found his reliable, playmaking quarterback after acquiring Garoppolo from New England at the October trade deadline. Garoppolo showed that in 67 seconds when forced into late action in a loss to Seattle three weeks ago at Levi's Stadium, then in back-to-back road games before shining again Sunday.

Marquise Goodwin made 10 catches for 114 yards and Garoppolo completed 31 of 43 passes to go over 300 yards passing for the second straight game after last week's win at Houston.

Mariota put Tennessee ahead on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews early in the fourth as the Titans rallied back from an early 13-point deficit.

The 49ers were in good position the ensuing possession before Garoppolo was sacked by Wesley Woodyard for a 10-yard loss. Then, Gould converted a 50-yarder.

Tennessee came out of intermission a new team, totaling 22 offensive plays to San Francisco's five in the third quarter.

Garoppolo became the first 49ers quarterback since the merger in 1970 to win each of his first three starts and just the second QB to do so in franchise history. Y.A. Tittle did so spanning the 1951-52 seasons.

He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to tight end Garrett Celek - whose great play in recent weeks has earned the nickname of "Celek Time." Celek later had a 41-yard catch.

Garoppolo didn't even have Trent Brown to block for him after the right tackle went on injured reserve with a right shoulder injury that will require surgery. Mariota threw a 4-yard TD pass to former 49er Delanie Walker late in the first half to keep the Titans close.

Garoppolo was 5 of 6 passing on his opening possession as San Francisco mixed its play calls well to catch the stingy Titans defense off guard. Gould's 38-yarder capped the 12-play, 64-yard initial drive. Gould hit a 48-yarder late in the first and then kicked one from 28 yards just before halftime.

The Titans played a second straight road game against the NFC West after losing last week to the Cardinals and staying in Arizona for the week of practice.

Their first visit to Levi's Stadium - Tennessee last played the Niners on the road at Candlestick in November 2009 - began slowly, the team's second straight week playing a stadium for the initial time.

Mariota, in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his three-year career, threw for 241 yards completing 23 of 33 passes.

DEFENSIVE FLOP

Tennessee's typically tough defense was a far cry from that dominant unit in the first half.

Garoppolo threw for 189 yards and the Niners outgained the Titans 219-136 in the first half. The 49ers didn't punt until more than midway through the third quarter.

Last week, the Titans allowed only four field goals, the second time this season they'd done so. From Week 5, Tennessee had been allowing only 295.1 yards per game.

INJURIES

Titans: CB Logan Ryan sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter.

49ers: WR Aldrick Robinson suffered a concussion in the first quarter. He went to the locker room with head and wrist injuries after he was hit hard by Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson along the Tennessee sideline. Robinson was stretching out trying to make a catch when he got slammed and went down for several minutes with 5:24 to go in the opening quarter.

UP NEXT

Titans: Host Rams next Sunday and home the final two weeks.

49ers: Host Jaguars next Sunday.