FOXBORO — Winning the turnover battle is one of the biggest keys to winning each week in the NFL, regardless of the opponent.
Since 2000, the Patriots are 116-12 when winning the turnover battle, compared to 27-37 when they don’t. Even further, New England is 97-5 since 2003 when having a plus turnover margin.
The Patriots have won the turnover battle in each of the first two games this season and are tied for the lead the AFC with a plus five turnover differential. They are also tied for second in the entire NFL, with only the Panthers having a better differential at plus six.
“We try and emphasize on just getting the ball,” defensive end Chandler Jones said. “Turnover differential, turnover margin, we just have to win always. We try and get the ball back into our offenses hands and whenever you can get the ball into Tom’s hands good things will happen.”
Although Jones didn’t have any of the four Patriots turnovers against the Vikings, he did have a monster game. Jones blocked a 48-yard field goal attempt and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown to give New England a 24-7 halftime lead. He also finished the game with eight total tackles and his fifth career two-sack game. For his performance he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
“Our defense played very well, but there is always room for improvement,” said Jones. “As far as the Player of the Week thing, that’s our defense. It’s a defensive effort, it’s all 11 men on the field. We play hard out there and the biggest thing is moving forward to Oakland.”
The defense enters Sunday’s home opener against the Raiders ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense. They will have a chance to build even more confidence as the Raiders come into the game with the second-worst ranked offense in the entire league.
After allowing 33 points in Week 1, the defense rebounded nicely only allowing seven last week against the Vikings, partly because of the team’s preparation leading up to the game – something they are already hard at work on getting ready for Week 3 and the Raiders.
“I feel like we went out there and we saw the results of buying into what the coaches said and doing our job — executing, paying attention to detail, the little things that coach said trying to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” Jones said. “It definitely showed out there when we go out and execute.”
FOXBORO — Sometimes one week can make all the difference in the world.
In Week 1 against the Dolphins the Patriots ran for just 89 yards, only 28 of them coming in the second half as they ran just seven running plays the final 30 minutes of the game. Week 2 against the Vikings was a different story as the team ran for 150 total yards, 96 of them coming in the second half.
Stevan Ridley led the way, rushing for 101 yards on 21 carries.
“We’ve improved each week. I think Miami to Minnesota, I think [the offense and offensive line] made a drastic improvement,” Ridley said. “We all keep leaning on each other and relying on each other. I think we’re going to be OK towards the end of the year.”
On a personal level, the key for Ridley was staying patient as he only rushed for 29 yards in the first half, but was able to pick it up in the second half against a tired and demoralized Minnesota defense.
“Every back goes out there and wants to take it the distance, but there are going to be times that it’s going to be just two yards, three yards and you just have to keep plugging,” said Ridley. “You have stay disciplined as a runner and keep your legs moving and falling forward. That’s what you have to do to get the tough yardage, eventually they are going to break and you’ll get some big runs.”
Overall, the Patriots rank 16th in the NFL in rushing, this after being ranked 21st following Week 1. Like Ridley said, the Patriots are focused on getting better each week, wanting to reach its peak once December and the end of the season hits.
Ridley isn’t the only back who has seen time as Shane Vereen has been a force both in the running game and catching passes out of the backfield. Vereen has 76 yards on 13 carries and has caught six passes for 35 yards. Running the ball effectively and with consistency goes a long way in the Patriots offense as the team is 38-1 when a player runs for 100 yards or more under Bill Belichick.
“It’s only Week 3. The first week we struggled and the second week we got it going. There’s a lot of football left to be played, so I don’t want to jump in front of myself. From week-to-week I see improvement and that’s all we can ask for, especially with the group of guys that we have up there. There are some new faces – I think we all know that – but, like I said we’re just going in week in and week out showing what we can do,” Ridley said. “Eventually, these upcoming weeks, hopefully we will have a balanced attack going into every game and that’s what makes us hard [to stop]. The key word is hard work around here and that’s what we do.”
Christopher Price, WEEI.com spoke with the guys about the new NFL drug policy and what it means for certain players in the league. He also spoke about the importance of getting Danny Amendola involved in the offense. The Patriots are still trying to find the BEST way to utilize Chandler Jones. And rookie Raiders QB Derek Carr is a bit of a wild-card heading into Sunday's match up.
[0:01:00] ... literally just this afternoon we're not sure why they're. Orlando Scandrick and WesWelker. Are built quiet as opposed to Brandon -- -- if it does it but we do know at this point -- it ... [0:03:53] ... be the weekend not to take anything away from the from the OaklandRaiders who don't prisoners it hasn't anyway luck. But this'll be you'll have a treat this like another pre season game because you ... [0:04:49] ... why the recent beat Strobl. Oh -- you get off the island SouthFlorida so I do you really need to -- more depth in the pat what they're not that delete all. Really -- all ... [0:05:40] ... comport in under way to get more than I worked in the newbook out. -- Chris -- you don't. They make it possible because sexy to get him to talk about anything. I'm down there ...
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview the Patriots’ home opener vs. the Oakland Raiders. The pair talk about how Bill Belichick has adjusted his offensive line to provide a spark to the running attack, Stevan Ridley’s resurgence and the need for Tom Brady to start distributing the ball in the offense.
FOXBORO — Continuing with a theme that the 0-2 Raiders pose a legitimate threat to the Patriots in New England’s home opener, Bill Belichick explained why he feels Oakland should be taken seriously, starting with their speed and size.
Belichick said Wednesday the Raiders present big and fast challenges on both sides of the ball, starting with their defense of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith.
“I think that this team looks like the big, fast team that the Raiders have historically been known for,” Belichick said. “They’re big at every position ‘ their line is big, their receivers are big, backs are big, defensive line is big, secondary is big, kicker is big. They’re fast. I don’t know how many guys they have run under I’d say 4.4, 4.5, but it has to be a dozen, maybe more than that. I don’t know. There’s a lot.
“They’re fast at linebacker, they’re fast ‘ DBs are all fast. Even the safeties are fast. [Usama] Young is fast, obviously Woodson is fast. Tyvon Branch is sub-4.4. These guys can all ‘ they have a big, fast team. You see it in the kicking game. You see it certainly defensively. Teams that try to run outside and bounce the ball out on them, it’s not one guy making the play. It’s like four guys that are out there before the back gets out there. They have very good team speed. Overall, they’re big. I don’t know what their offensive line, I don’t even know what they list them at, but just looking at them, they have to average 340 [pounds]. They’re huge. It looks like the Raiders. Maybe they look bigger in those black uniforms, I don’t know.”
With all the leadership on the Raiders, including Tuck and Charles Woodson, Belichick has warned his team to be aware of a desperate team looking for a win that could turn its season around before it’s too late.
“That’s the first thing I said. I think with the leadership out there, the veterans that they have on that team, guys that are used to winning, guys that they’ve brought in that have been in all those playoff games and Super Bowls and all that, I’m sure that they’re ‘ I mean look, this is where we were a week ago,” Belichick said. “This is the same thing we heard in here last Wednesday or whenever it was, after the Miami game. I’m sure they feel after the Houston game the way we felt after the Miami game. Last week doesn’t mean anything in the NFL. It’s what happens this week. That’s all we can focus on is what we can do to get ready for this game. We have a lot to get ready for. They have a lot of good players, good team, and they have a lot of pride; they have a lot of toughness. It’s going to be hard.”
BB: Rolling on these Raiders. It’s a lot of familiar faces, but guys who we’ve been used to seeing in different uniforms. I think the thing that jumps out about the Raiders is how experienced they are, how many veteran players they have. As usual, they’re a big, fast team. In the kicking game, they have a lot of guys who are big and can run. They’ve got two big kickers: [Sebastian] Janikowski and [Marquette] King. Those guys can kick it as far as anybody. We’re going to have to do a good job there with field position and ball handling and so forth. Offensively, [Derek] Carr is clearly taking control. He’s been impressive; gets the ball out quick, makes quick decisions, athletic. The run he had against Houston last week was impressive. [He] spreads the ball around ‘ receivers, backs, tight ends. Good running backs ‘ two different type of guys with [Maurice] Jones-Drew and [Darren] McFadden, but both good; different styles. [Marcel] Reece is obviously a matchup guy. Big offensive line, real big. Two rookies they have on offense there, [Gabe] Jackson and Carr, have done a good job for them.
Then the same thing with [Khalil] Mack on defense and the group that they’ve added in the secondary plus [Justin] Ellis. A lot of experience on defense; [they've] almost redone their whole defensive line with [Justin] Tuck, [LaMarr] Woodley, the kid from Green Bay [C.J. Wilson], Mack, obviously. They’ve added a lot there and same thing in the secondary with the two corners from San Francisco ‘ [Tarell] Brown and Carlos Rogers and of course [Charles] Woodson is extremely impressive. Woodson really doesn’t look like a 17-year veteran, I’ll tell you that. He makes plays all over the field ‘ very aggressive, fast, instinctive, strong tackler, tough. Just couldn’t say enough about how impressed I’ve been watching him on film. Raiders have real good team speed. They’re a big, physical team. We have a lot to get ready for in terms of their scheme and personnel. I think Coach [Dennis] Allen has done a good job there defensively with emphasizing the turnovers. They caused a lot of fumbles last year. I think it was the fourth-most in the league or something like that. They do a good job of turning the ball over. They’ve done a good job offensively of scoring in the red zone and really not turning the ball over much in two games. We’re going to have to play good, solid, physical 60 minutes of football on Sunday. That’s what we’re expecting, that’s what we’re looking for.
Q: After their game, Charles Woodson described how he felt about his team and how they played Sunday. Obviously they were negative words. From what you’ve seen on the tape, why would he be so down on their performance? What didn’t they do on Sunday?
BB: They fell behind early and then just were kind of never really that close’¦Houston was able to just stay far enough ahead, a couple touchdowns ahead. Look, we’ve all been there before. Last week is last week. It doesn’t really mean anything. I’m sure that based on the comments that I’ve seen out of there and the leadership that they have on that team, the veterans that they have on that team, I’m sure that we’ll come in here and we won’t see the team we saw against Houston last week. That’s what we’re getting ready for ‘ we’re getting ready for their best game and I don’t think Houston was probably it.
Q: How are you addressing the problem you’ve had with penalties?
BB: Yeah, we have to do a better job. We’ve talked about them, we’re practicing. We just have to do a better job.
Q: The Raiders pass defense is ranked second in the league, I think. They’re only giving up like 165 yards per game. Does it start with the defensive line? Obviously, the veteran experience in the secondary. What kind of challenges do they present?
BB: Yeah, all of it. They have a good pass rush, they’ve got several good rushers ‘ [Antonio] Smith is very disruptive up there, [Pat] Sims, Mack, Woodley, Tuck. They do a good job up there. They have good coverage players. They have a lot of, six, seven corners on the roster. I guess it’s six now because they IR’d one, but they’ve got good coverage players back there. [TJ] Carrie has done a good job for them, then they got [Chimdi] Chekwa back last week, of course to go with Brown and Rogers. Woodson really is a corner, even though he’s playing safety. Tyvon Branch [is] one of the fastest players in the league; Sio Moore. They have real good team speed, good man-to-man coverage team. They cover receivers, tight ends, [have] a good pass rush. That will be a big challenge. Getting away from those guys has been tough for teams that have played them. Even in preseason, people, the teams they played in the preseason ‘ Seattle, Minnesota ‘ they just get up on the receivers and there’s not a lot of space between the defender and the receiver. The quarterback has to make a tight throw, the receiver has to make a good catch. It’s hard. And they’ve got a good pass rush.
Q: Is Khalil Mack pretty much the player everyone thought he could be?
BB: He’s been disruptive. They play him at linebacker in their regular defense and then in sub ‘ it’s a little bit like [Minnesota linebacker Anthony] Barr. In sub, they played him more as a defensive end. Minnesota was playing Barr at linebacker and end. It looks like they’ve committed more to really end with Mack. But he’s fast, he’s explosive. He’s got a lot of talent and he’s certainly made some good plays. Like any rookie, he’s got a lot to learn, but he’s a force out there.
Q: Schematically, how would you describe what Jason Tarver is trying to do with their defense? How is it different from what you’ve seen Kevin Coyle and Mike Zimmer do the past two weeks?
BB: I’d say they play more man-to-man, more press coverage. They mix their mans and their zones. They mix some pressure in there, more man pressure probably than zone pressure. So, I’d say more man-to-man than we’ve seen the last couple weeks. Although, we’ve seen our share of man-to-man, too. Certainly Minnesota gave it to us. But, you know, they mix it up. Coach Allen has a bunch of different packages, pressure packages. But in the end, you have to block the guys up front. It starts there. That will be a big challenge for us. But they’ve got a good mix with I’d say a good amount of man-to-man.
Q: As it pertains to the possible drug policy, have you gotten any further guidance from the league and what that could mean for your players?
Q: So they don’t give you any guidance.
BB: I don’t know. I know nothing. Zero.
Q: So no indication whether you could have a player or two back this weekend?
BB: No idea. Nope. Until we get notified of anything, we get notified of anything.
Q: What do you see from their receiving corps? It seems like they have a couple of fast guys in Rod Streater and James Jones.
BB: Well, you know, Jones I’d say in particular, is very athletic. He has a lot of acrobatic type catches, too. He has great timing, leaping ability and big hands. He’s been very, I don’t want to say go-to guy, but they’ve gone to him. I mean, the catch against the Jets was a tremendous play to even make the catch, then to get his feet in bounds and all that. He’s a very good receiver, that’s a big target, that’s got a big catch radius, got great hands and great jumping ability.
FOXBORO — Jamie Collins returned to practice Wednesday as the Patriots began preparations for the Oakland Raiders in the home openers this Sunday but another linebacker was absent.
Jerod Mayo was not spotted at the start of full pads practice as the team worked out on the upper grass fields.
Collins was missed practice Thursday and Friday with a thigh injury and was inactive for the 30-7 win over the Vikings on Sunday.
Mayo did not play a snap in the preseason but has played in both of the team’s regular season games as he returns from a torn pectoral muscle that ended his season last October in a win against the Saints.
WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview the Patriots' home opener against the Oakland Raiders, a team they should beat without too much trouble.
[0:00:18] ... home game starting one and one on the road they have the OaklandRaiders this Sunday here at Gillette Stadium. It is a game that by all rights they really should win and win comfortably. Your ... [0:06:06] ... Football League actually quite the two weeks. At the Ray Rice and AdrianPeterson case is coming to the four BillBelichick saying on Tuesday during a conference call. That he -- believes in free speech for his players and if they wanna speak out they speak out TomBrady chose this week to say. I'm sick and in my own lane I'm not gonna talk about it he repeated that theme. ... [0:07:23] ... to think and what the players one. Let's wrap up talking about TomBrady. He was asked the question that's really on everybody's mind how does he do a better job of distributing the Baltimore then just Rob Gronkowski and Julian element. -- in this offense that is really you've been the subject on everybody's mind and really the focal point of the criticism of this offense here in the 2014. Season just two games in albeit. But that is what people are wondering. And TomBrady said yeah we do wanna be like the San Antonio Spurs we have to distribute the ball but we also have to ... [0:08:45] ... you -- -- we need to be very encouraged to hear what TomBrady said because. This means that there's a greater chance that other guys have been involved in the passing game Vereen we saw ...
FOXBORO — Tom Brady looked visibly frustrated after Sunday’s 30-7 win over the Vikings and for a valid reason — the offense, especially the passing game, hasn’t performed to their capabilities through the first two games of the season.