On Sunday against the Steelers, the Patriots were hit with four penalties for 40 yards, not including the calls that were declined or offset. Through seven games, New England has been whistled for 42 penalties (11th fewest in the NFL) and 379 penalty yards (12th fewest in the league). Here’s a breakdown of the flags that have gone against the Patriots after seven regular-season games:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
OL Joe Thuney: 5 (2 offensive holding, 3 false starts), 35 yards
OL David Andrews: 4 (tripping, 3 offensive holding), 40 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: 3 (offensive holding, false start, taunting), 30 yards
OL Marcus Cannon: 3 (2 offensive holding, false start) 25 yards
CB Malcolm Butler: 2 (defensive pass interference, defensive holding), 26 yards
OL Nate Solder: 2 (chop block, offensive holding), 25 yards
CB Logan Ryan: 2 (defensive pass interference, illegal use of hands), 25 yards
WR Chris Hogan: 2 (offensive pass interference, offensive holding), 14 yards
WR Julian Edelman: 2 (2 false starts), 10 yards
LB Dont’a Hightower: 1 (unnecessary roughness), 15 yards
RB LeGarrette Blount: 1 (unnecessary roughness), 15 yards
CB Cyrus Jones: 1 (disqualification), 15 yards
LB Jamie Collins: 1 (leaping), 15 yards
DE Chris Long: 1 (roughing the passer), 15 yards
OL Shaq Mason: 1 (offensive holding), 10 yards
TE Martellus Bennett: 1 (offensive holding), 10 yards
OL Ted Karras: 1 (offensive holding), 9 yards
DB/ST Brandon King: 1 (false start), 5 yards
P Ryan Allen: 1 (delay of game), 5 yards
TE AJ Derby: 1 (false start), 5 yards
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 1 (delay of game), 5 yards
LB Jonathan Freeny: 1 (defensive holding), 5 yards
LB/ST Barkevious Mingo: 1 (false start), 5 yards
Team/ST: 1 (12 men on the field), 5 yards
CB Justin Coleman: 1 (defensive holding), 5 yards
DL Malcom Brown: 1 (defensive holding), 5 yards

Most penalized by position
Offensive line: 16 penalties, 144 yards
Cornerback: 6 penalties, 71 yards
Tight end: 5 penalties, 45 yards
Wide receiver: 4 penalties, 24 yards
Special teams: 4 penalties, 20 yards
Linebacker: 3 penalties, 35 yards
Defensive line: 2 penalty, 20 yards
Running back: 1 penalty, 15 yards
Quarterback: 1 penalty, 5 yards

Most frequently called penalties
Offensive holding: 13 (8th most in NFL, per NFLpenalties.com)
False start: 10 (7th most in NFL)
Defensive holding: 4 (2nd most in NFL)
Delay of game: 2
Defensive pass interference: 2
Unnecessary roughness: 2
Offensive pass interference: 1
Leaping: 1
Disqualification: 1
Tripping: 1
12 men on the field: 1
Roughing the passer: 1
Chop block: 1
Illegal use of hands: 1

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Julian Edelman

Julian Edelman

Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat — a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback — it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer or coach might have in said pass catcher. With all that in mind, here’s a look at the target breakdown through the first seven games of the regular season.

WR Julian Edelman: 37 catches on 55 targets (67 percent)
TE Martellus Bennett: 27 catches on 35 targets (77 percent)
RB James White: 27 catches on 37 targets (73 percent)
WR Chris Hogan: 15 catches on 23 targets (65 percent)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 17 catches on 23 targets (74 percent)
WR Danny Amendola: 13 catches on 16 targets (81 percent)
WR Malcolm Mitchell: 6 catches on 13 targets (46 percent)
RB LeGarrette Blount: 6 catches on 6 targets (100 percent)
RB Brandon Bolden: 2 catches on 4 targets (50 percent)
RB D.J. Foster: 1 catch on 2 targets (50 percent)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 1 catch on 1 target (100 percent)
WR Matthew Slater: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)

Breakdown of targets by position
Wide Receiver: 71 catches on 100 targets (71 percent)
Tight End: 44 catches on 60 targets (73 percent)
Running Back: 36 catches on 49 targets (73 percent)
Quarterback: 1 catch on 1 target (100 percent)

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the target breakdown through seven games last season. Two things that really stand out when comparing last year to this season: James White has been able to replicate Dion Lewis’ production in the passing game, at least from a target perspective: Lewis had 32 catches on 45 targets through seven games last year, while White is at 27 catches on 37 targets this season. And despite the fact that he’s still the top target in the passing game, Julian Edelman’s targets are off significantly when compared to last year. Through the first seven games of 2015, he was at 75 targets. Through the first seven games of this year, he’s at 55. That’s likely a byproduct of the likes of Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan finding more opportunities, as well as the shuffling at quarterback over the first four games. From this viewpoint, it’s nothing necessarily to be concerned about, but it was still interesting to see.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game in Buffalo could have been a battle for first place in the AFC East if the Bills would have taken care of business Sunday in Miami.

Instead, after the Bills’ loss to the Dolphins they are 4-3, while the Patriots are 6-1 and now the Bills must win to have any sort of shot at the AFC East title this season.

Rex Ryan knows how important Sunday's game against the Patriots is. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Rex Ryan knows how important Sunday’s game against the Patriots is. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game in Buffalo could have been a battle for first place in the AFC East if the Bills would have taken care of business Sunday in Miami.

Instead, after the Bills’ loss to the Dolphins they are 4-3, while the Patriots are 6-1 and now the Bills must win to have any sort of shot at the AFC East title this season.

Rex Ryan knows how big of a game it is.

“I don’t know how much more important it could be than this one,” Ryan told reporters Monday via ESPN’s Mike Rodak. “I could lie to you and say it’s not important, but this is a critical game for us. There’s no doubt about it. Does it break your season if you lose? I hope I don’t have to worry about that. We got to find a way to win this game.”

It’s also the first meeting following the Week 4 matchup where the Bills beat the Patriots 16-0 at Gillette Stadium, but the Patriots were without Tom Brady. Also, there was a pregame dust-up between the Bills’ secondary and Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell when the two ran on to the field on the Bills’ side during pregame warmups.

“These two teams don’t like each other, there’s no question about that,” Ryan said. “But I don’t think there was a real fight, you know? A real fight would be outside in a parking lot, you know what I mean? Then you really got something to write about. But that thing was hardly a fight.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Bill Belichick was satisfied with his team following Sunday's win. (Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick was satisfied with his team following Sunday’s win. (Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports)

A good week in practice generally carries over to games.

That appeared to be the message Bill Belichick gave to his team following the Patriots’ 27-16 win over the Steelers Sunday in Pittsburgh.

(Click here for the complete video courtesy of Patriots.com.)

“How ’bout Malcolm? You catch ’em in practice, you catch ’em in the game. How ’bout that,” Belichick said referring Malcolm Butler’s interception in the first quarter. “It all starts right there.

“Way to run the rock LG [LeGarrette Blount]. That is the way to run the rock. Great job. Look fellas, it’s tough to come in here and win. It’s a battle. Every time. It’s tough to come in here. It’s a tough football team. They’re well-coached, they’re disiplined. Fast, and they’re big. It’s a good job here, alright. Division game on the road, doesn’t get any bigger than this. It’s a good job here today, fellas.”

The Patriots are now 6-1 on the season and will play in Buffalo next Sunday.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The Patriots made two roster moves on Monday as they released defensive lineman Anthony Johnson from the active roster and cornerback Vinnie Sunseri from the practice squad.

New England now has an open roster spot on the 53-man roster and an open spot on the practice squad.

Here is a portion of the release from the team:

Johnson, 23, originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Miami Dolphins on May 12, 2014, out of Louisiana State. The 6-foot-2, 295-pounder, made the Miami 53-man roster as a rookie and played in seven games, recording two tackles and recovering one fumble. He was released by Miami at the end of training camp in 2015 and was signed by the Washington Redskins’ practice squad in November. Johnson was released by Washington on May 2, 2016. He was signed by the Patriots on May 9, 2016, and began the season on the 53-man roster. Johnson was released on Sept. 26 and was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 28. Johnson was signed back to the 53-man roster on Oct. 15. He has played in four games with one start for the Patriots and posted nine total tackles and two passes defensed.

Sunseri, 24, was originally drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round (167th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Alabama. As a rookie, he played in nine games and finished with one defensive tackle before finishing the season on injured reserve. Sunseri spent the entire 2015 season on injured reserve. After being released by the Saints on April 25, 2016, he signed with New England on July 24, 2016, before being released at the end of camp and being signed to the practice squad.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Tom Brady averaged 2.21 seconds from snap-to-throw vs. Steelers. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady averaged 2.21 seconds from snap-to-throw vs. Steelers. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

After looking back at 2015’s Week 1 meeting between the Patriots and Steelers, it seemed like Sunday would be a game featuring Tom Brady’s quick release.

The Steelers are a team that blitz a lot, so to combat that Brady had his quickest release time of the entire season of 1.85 seconds from snap-to-throw in last year’s meeting.

Sunday was a different story as Brady averaged 2.21 seconds from snap-to-throw by our count, which doesn’t include sacks or penalties.

The increased time had a lot to do with the Steelers’ gameplan of not blitzing and focusing on taking away Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett in the passing game. For the most part, Brady was quick with his release in the pocket, but on a few plays the Steelers defense forced him to scramble and also, Brady only attempted 26 passes.

“It’s a team that going into the week is a 60-70 percent blitz team. Six or seven or every 10 snaps they are blitzing and they hardly blitzed us at all,” Brady said on Kirk & Callahan Monday morning. “I don’t think they wanted the 1-on-1 matchups in coverage, so they always had help over the top of each of their defenders, which leaves room in the middle of the field, which is why Julian [Edelman] and whoever was in the middle of the field got a lot of opportunity.”

Once again, Brady was solid when getting rid of the ball quickly as he was 11-for-13 in the game when getting rid of the ball in less than two seconds.

His release times will be something to watch this week against the Bills as last season Brady was ultra-quick in the big win in Week 2 averaging 1.99 seconds from snap-to-throw, but then in the second matchup averaged 2.45 seconds, his second highest total of the season.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

On WEEI’s Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick reiterated his support for kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Belichick said that the struggles that have plagued Gostkowski are pretty much par for the course for anyone who has spent time in the NFL.

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

On WEEI’s Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick reiterated his support for kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Belichick said that the struggles that have plagued Gostkowski are pretty much par for the course for anyone who has spent time in the NFL.

“I think all players go through periods of time every year when they maybe aren’t as good as they are at other times. Coaches go through that too,” he said. “We all have to work though it — I don’t think there’s any shortcut. Just do what we believe, and keep working hard and try to improve it. Nobody else is going to change it. We all have to do it ourselves. I think every player feels like that. There are certain parts of the year where things are going better than they did in another part. If they’re not going good, then you do something to try and change that course.”

Belichick was asked about the challenge of kicking at Heinz Field, a notoriously difficult place for kicking.

“Part of the issue there is just the swirling wind,” he said. “Sometimes the wind moves the ball and sometimes it doesn’t. In all honesty, you can stand in different parts of the field and the wind is blowing in a different direction. You feel like it’s at your back, and then you walk a little ways, and then, all of a sudden, you feel the wind change. It didn’t feel like it felt 30 yards in a different spot. Both kickers kicked on the same field and both had trouble.”

Belichick also weighed in on a number of other topics:

On the fact that Patriots quarterbacks haven’t thrown an interception through seven games: “I don’t think any quarterback wants to throw an interception. I don’t think any coach wants that either. Look, there will be some tight throws, and I think that a quarterback has to have confidence to make those throws. That’s definitely going to happen. I think they gain that confidence on the practice field where they throw that ball in practice and realize it’s little too tight. Or against this coverage, there’s not enough room to get it in. I’d much rather have that happen in practice than happen [in a game]. And so would they. Sometimes, those things happen in practice or in training camp, preseason games. That kind of thing. I think that’s the time as coach, when you kind of want it to happen; you want the quarterback to feel confident on which ones he can get and which ones he can’t. That’s the time to do it, rather than these games.”

On Patrick Chung reaching 100 career games: “I think Pat, first of all, he’s a very good football player. But he’s also very well-conditioned. He’s one of our best conditioned athletes. He plays a lot on defense. He plays in the kicking game. And he can do, really pretty much whatever we ask him to do. He’s got really good endurance. He’s tough. He’s mentally tough. He’s physically tough. He’s a good tackler. He’s good in run for us. He’s good in coverage. He’s got a lot of good skills. He’s very good in the kicking game. We can use him on every single special team, if wanted to, but we can’t, because we choose not to because of his role on defense. But there was a time where he was on every special teams. … A very dependable tackler. Very good in run for us. For the last three years, he’s been a very solid coverage player for us. He does a lot of things well. I don’t think it’s any accident. he trains ell. He’s in good condition. And he’s a good football player.”

on the Bills: “They’re an explosive team, kind of like Pittsburgh. They’re very fast. The receivers are fast. They have a great running back, like Pittsburgh does. And the quarterback is very athletic. They do a great job on the running game. i don’t know if they lead the league in rushing, but they’ve got to be up there. They gain a lot of yards running the ball; they have several different runners and they have a lot of different ways of doing it. They have the wildcat, they do it with an unbalanced line. They run option plays. Read zone. All those things. It just gives you a lot to defend. Again, they’ve hit some explosive plays with their big-play receivers, including [Charles] Clay. They have a lot of weapons. Really, that’s the same team we saw last year. I’d say that’s pretty much the team this year. They just weren’t able to get that kind of production against Baltimore. But in the other game, I mean, we held them to 16 points, but they moved the ball on us, they converted third down. They ended up kicking some field goals, but they moved the ball. It’ll be a challenge for us.

“Defensively, their defense is very similar to what it was last year. They get [Marcell] Dareus back and they have Kyle [Williams] inside and they have good edge players like [Jerry] Hughes. Zach Brown is having a good year for them. He’s leading the league in tackles. He, along with Preston Brown, give them two good inside linebackers. They’e been strong in the secondary — those guys have been healthy all year. [Ronald] Darby missed one game but he’s been out there with [Stephon] Gilmore and [Nickell] Roby in there at the nickel positions. [Corey] Graham does a good job at safety. There’s a lot of carryover, a lot of experience on the defensive side of the ball, and they’re very explosive on offense.”

To listen to the complete interview, check out the Dale & Holley page.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Ryan Shazier and the Steelers struggled to stop LeGarrette Blount. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Ryan Shazier and the Steelers struggled to stop LeGarrette Blount. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

In the wake of Sunday’s loss to the Patriots — and the fact that LeGarrette Blount ran for a season-high 127 yards against the Steelers — Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier ripped his team, saying that the Steelers’ run defense is “garbage.”

“He’s a big guy, he’s a good runner, but we didn’t get blocks,” Shazier said of Blount’s performance and Pittsburgh’s response. “We didn’t make tackles. Everyone is responsible. We have to hold each other accountable. We have to make sure we can be the defense we can be. Right now, we’re looking like garbage. This is terrible right now.”

It was the second straight game where an opposing running back finished with at least 120 yards against Pittsburgh.

“We’re normally known for stopping the run, but, if teams feel like they can get 100 or 200 yards rushing on us every game, they’re going to continue to run,” Shazier said. “If we keep playing like this, they’re going to keep doing this. We have to make sure when we come back we’re going to force them to stop running the ball and do whatever we want them to do.

“Right now, they can do whatever they want to do. and that’s going to hurt us. We’re going to continue to lose if that happens.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price