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Stephen Gostkowski goes full 60: ‘It was just a pretty cool experience’

08.23.14 at 2:45 am ET
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Stephen Gostkowski (3) converts a 60 yard field goal at the end of the first half. (Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski (3) converts a 60 yard field goal at the end of the first half. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — When Stephen Gostkowski ran out onto the field with just eight seconds left before halftime, he didn’t think about the fact he had never attempted a 60-yard field goal.

He didn’t have time to.

Maybe that’s why he didn’t try to “over-kick” the ball. Maybe that’s why he did rush his leg through and mis-hit the ball. Maybe that’s why he struck the ball just right and used the favorable wind at his back to connect from a distance that was six yards further than any kick he had ever made in the NFL.

‘€œIt was just good to get on a positive track making the first one,” Gostkowski said, referring to his 47 yarder late in the first quarter. “Sometimes the first kick is the hardest to make. And then we got the opportunity at the end of the half. That’€™s the time you want to try a long field goal. The thing about trying a long field goal like that is there are no expectations. You go out there, and it’€™s really a win-win situation.”

The ball, thanks to a breeze behind him, just slithered over the cross bar and into the hands of a field attendant below the goal post. Each official under each upright looked at one another and then raised their hands and a huge ovation came from the crowd. Had it been the regular season, the 60-yarder would’ve been the longest in team history, three longer than Adam Vinatieri‘s 57-yarder in Champaign, Ill. against the Bears on Nov. 10, 2002.

“Nobody really expects you to make it, so it really puts your mind at ease. We hit a pretty good kick, and we got out there a little late, the play clock was running down, so I didn’€™t really get to aim. I just kind of kicked it, and luckily the wind blew it enough to the left, a nice little draw, and it just fell in there. It was cool to see everybody getting excited and stuff like that. It was just a pretty cool experience. It was the longest kick I’€™ve ever kicked in a game, and it’€™s nice to get an opportunity and take advantage of it.’€

Whatever the reason, the 60-yard field goal not only gave Gostkowski a nice feather in his cap, it planted a seed in the mind of Bill Belichick that if ever the Patriots need three points before the half or at the end of the game, attempting a kick from midfield is an option.

“We had a little wind there,” Belichick said. “We felt like if we normally get the ball around the 35, he’€™s in range. But at the end of a half or in that situation in the end of the half with a little bit of wind, I felt like the 40-yard line or close to the 40-yard line would get it for us. It was like the 42 or something like that. It was a great kick. It was a good situation for us. I think it really visually now gives our offense as clear of a picture as they could possibly have of where we need to get to, how much a couple extra yards means in that situation and hopefully we can make those kicks when we get in the regular season.”

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Read More: 60-yard field goal, New England Patriots, Stephen Gostkowski,

Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich benefiting from strong Patriots secondary

08.23.14 at 1:27 am ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

FOXBORO — Not only can a very good secondary limit what opposing quarterbacks can do against a defense — it also can help the other members of the defense get after the quarterback.

The Patriots finished with three sacks in their 30-7 win over the Panthers, all in the first quarter against starting quarterback Cam Newton – defensive end Chandler Jones had two and outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich had the other.

“œThe first play of the game was definitely a coverage sack,”€ Ninkovich said. “I was just trying to mirror the quarterback and make sure he didn’€™t get out of the pocket. I was just collapsing and collapsing and I was able to get to [the quarterback]. That goes to the secondary.”

The Patriots secondary now has arguably the best cornerback in the game in Darrelle Revis, as well as Pro-Bowl safety Devin McCourty to go along with rising-star corners Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan — as well as the former member of the Seahawks Legion of Boom secondary, cornerback Brandon Browner. (Although it should be noted, he is suspended for the first four games of the season and didn’€™t play until the fourth quarter Friday night).

All those players stepped onto the field together for the first time this preseason and were able to give the entire defense some added energy and boost to their games.

“€œ[We] had a tremendous time. Football is fun,” Jones said. “We’€™re out there in the preseason we get a chance to go against a different team. Whether it is in practice, going against the Redskins or the Eagles. We got an opportunity to go out in our third preseason game and execute and we went out and did a good job.”€

The defense played very well, with the starters playing a little over a half, holding the Carolina offense — which made the postseason last year — to just 94 total yards in the first half.

“It’€™s just working hard throughout camp, and all week, trying to prepare and knowing that we were going against a good team and a good quarterback that was able to scramble around and get out of the pocket,”€ Ninkovich said. “It was a good game all around.”

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Read More: chandler jones, Panthers, Patriots, Rob Ninkovich

Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Chandler Jones and a big Patriots preseason win

08.23.14 at 1:00 am ET
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FOXBORO, Mass. — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price assess the performance of Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Chandler Jones and the Patriots in their 30-7 preseason win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers Friday night at Gillette Stadium. Brady was 17-for-21 passing with two touchdowns and 204 yards passing while Jones had two sacks and six tackles in containing one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Read More: Carolina Panthers, Chris Price, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots

Tom Brady on his regular season dress rehearsal: ‘I think we can be a lot better’

08.23.14 at 12:46 am ET
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FOXBORO — To Tom Brady, the numbers Friday night said one thing. The feeling he took from the 30-7 preseason win over the Carolina Panthers said another.

There’s no disputing that 17-for-21 for 204 yards, two touchdowns and a 138.9 quarterback rating are numbers most NFL quarterbacks would take in their final regular season tune-up. But, of course, Tom Brady is not most quarterbacks.

He knows that the rhythm wasn’t there to begin the game, as a miscommunication with his wide receivers on third down and a stumble and near fumble on the second series would indicate. He didn’t appear to have his timing on the first two series, both ending in punts. Then Ryan Mallett came in on the third series to get some work in with the starters.

Brady tripped over someone’s foot and fell awkwardly to the turf, handing off to Shane Vereen in the nick of time, but not before a defensive lineman came barreling over him to get to Vereen.

“I couldn’€™t tell because I had my back turned, but I think someone just got my foot,” Brady said. “I don’€™t know if it was a defensive lineman or offensive lineman, but, yeah, you never want that to happen. That, against a good team like this, usually ends drives, and that one certainly did this time.”

Brady certainly recovered. On the next series after Mallett came out of the game, Brady led the Patriots down the field, going completing all four pass attempts, including a 40-yarder to a wide open Shane Vereen in the right flat on the Vereen staple – the wheel route – for a touchdown.

“Yeah, it was a slow start all the way around, but it was good to make some plays there late in the second quarter and then the third quarter,” Brady said. “There’€™s a lot of work to do, but it was fun being out there. It’€™s great to win, especially this game. They’€™re a good football team and if you don’€™t execute well, they’€™re going to be really tough. I’€™ve got a lot of respect for those guys [from] playing them last year. They’€™ve got a great team.”

Even on the 60-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski before the half, Brady and Bill Belichick thought that maybe with some slightly better clock management, they could’ve made things easier on themselves and their kicker. Still, for the starters to put 20 points up on the board against one of the better defenses in football provides some confidence going into the season.

“Yeah, it wasn’€™t bad, but there are a lot of things that we left out there,” Brady said. “We got bailed out there a few times on a few defensive calls. Missed some blitz stuff, missed some throws. I think we can be a lot better. It’€™s an important week for us to try to get better. The days are winding down until all these games count. It gets pretty exciting here in a few weeks, but you’€™ve still got to try to use these days to make as many improvements as we can. This game was good because you can really see where you’€™re at and you can see the things you need to get better. I think there’€™s a lot of things we can improve on.”

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Read More: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Luke Kuechly, New England Patriots

Why Shane Vereen could be on track to deliver a seismic season

08.23.14 at 12:34 am ET
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FOXBORO — Shane Vereen is the most versatile player the Patriots offense has.

While they have highly-touted players in Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, no one player can more things than Vereen.

If Vereen stays healthy, he could put up some giant numbers this season — similar to dynamic running back Darren Sproles, now of the Eagles.

The 2011 second-round pick out of Cal has certainly showed some flashes of stardom, but he’€™s yet to play a full season — playing in five, 13 and eight games respectively in his first three seasons in the league.

A 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, the running back’s strength is catching passes out of the backfield –€“ something he displayed Friday night, catching two touchdown passes in the Patriots’€™ 30-7 win over the Panthers.

“I was just glad the offensive was able to string together a couple drives — string together some plays,” said Vereen. “We kind of hurt ourselves a little bit, we still have a lot to work on, but it was good to get out there and develop some kind of rhythm.”

On the first touchdown Vereen was able to showcase his speed, as after catching a short pass from Tom Brady out of the backfield, the running back took off up the right side bursting past members of the Panthers secondary for 40 yards and the first touchdown of the game.

“I was hoping — running that fast I definitely didn’€™t want to get caught — I would hear it from everyone here in the locker room [if I did],” Vereen said.

His second touchdown came in the third quarter — also from Brady — a 6-yard quick out route from the backfield as he outstretched the ball just inside the pylon. At first it was ruled he was out of bounds inside the 1-yard line, but Bill Belichick challenged the play and it was overturned for his second touchdown of the game.

“€œI couldn’€™t tell if I stepped out of bounce or not, but I tried like hell to get in there,” Vereen said.

Vereen finished the game with 75 all-purpose yards — five catches for 57 yards and six rushes for 18 yards.

Plagued by injuries, last season was cut short when he broke his wrist in the first game of the season in Buffalo. He did return later in the season, but only played in eight total games — rushing for 208 yards and a touchdown, while catching 47 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns. His rookie campaign was also shortened to five games due to a nagging hamstring injury.

Going off his numbers last season — if converted to a full 16-game season — Vereen would have finished with 416 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, while catching 94 balls for 854 yards and six touchdowns. Added up he would’€™ve had a 1,248 all-purpose yard season with eight total touchdowns.

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Read More: Darren Sproles, Shane Vereen,

What we learned: Tom Brady shines as Patriots crush Panthers

08.22.14 at 10:21 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots topped the Panthers in the third preseason game for both teams Friday night at Gillette Stadium, 30-7.

Tom Brady ended up playing 41 snaps, and went 17-for-21 for 204 yards with a pair of touchdown passes as New England took a 13-0 lead at the half and never looked back.

New England also got eight catches for 99 yards from Julian Edelman, and eight carries for 28 yards from Stevan Ridley (who didn’t put the ball on the ground). In addition, Shane Vereen had six carries for 18 yards, as well as five catches for 57 yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns, while linebacker Steve Beauharnais added an interception for the Patriots.

On the other side of the ball, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton went 8-for-12 for 88 yards in the loss.

Here are 10 things we learned about the Patriots Friday night:

Tom Brady had one of the best third preseason games of his career.

When you’re measuring Brady’s preseason stats, his work in the third preseason game of the 2010 season against the Rams remains the gold standard — that night at Gillette Stadium, he was 18-for-22 for 273 yards with three touchdowns in 30 snaps — but this one wasn’t too far off. After a relatively slow start (and a brief sitdown in favor of Ryan Mallett — more on that shortly), Brady looked very sharp for the bulk of the evening. He wasn’t sacked, and went on an impressive streak in the second quarter, where he was 9-for-11 for 116 yards and a touchdown. He got a bunch of pass-catchers involved in the action, but the bulk of his targets were directed toward Edelman and Vereen. So much of a receivers’ success in the passing game can be traced back to winning the trust of Brady, and it’s clear (at least on a night where the Patriots didn’t have Rob Gronkowski) that the quarterback has the utmost faith in both Edelman and Vereen.

Bill Belichick always keeps his players on their toes.

The Patriots coach took everyone by surprise midway through the first half when he yanked Brady from the game and went with Mallett. Mallett helped put together a drive that ended with a 47-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski — which gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead — but Belichick went back to Brady on the following drive. Belichick has long used the preseason to sprung those type of surprises on his players, with the idea that you need to be mentally prepared to go into the game at a moments’ notice. (In the 2006 preseason finale, he yanked Matt Cassel midway through the preseason finale and went to emergency quarterback Troy Brown for a series.) While every detail regarding the Patriots quarterback situation is under the microscope (Is Mallett the No. 2 quarterback? Where does this leave Jimmy Garoppolo?), this would appear to be a simple case of Belichick keeping Mallett on his toes.

Darrelle Revis is likely done for the summer.

The cornerback saw his first extended action with the Patriots, playing just about the entire first half and the first defensive series of the second half. By our unofficial count, he finished with 28 snaps, with 26 of them coming on the left side. He was thrown at three times by Carolina, and the Panthers completed one ball in his direction (a really impressive slant from Newton to rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin) while another completion was nullified because of a penalty. On the preseason, we have him for 36 total snaps (33 on the left side and three on the right, with three balls in his direction and one completion. With the preseason finale set for next week against the Giants, it’s likely the last time we’ll see Revis before the regular season opener against the Dolphins in Miami.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — Julian Edelman is poised to have a very good year.

Edelman has been in sync with Brady all summer long, and their connection was on display again Friday against the Panthers, as he made a series of impressive catches on a variety of routes, including on short, intermediate and deep balls. His highlight came when he and Brady hooked up on an impressive 35-yarder on the first drive of the second half down the seam for the Patriots. He played the bulk of the first three quarters, and caught all eight of his targets for eight receptions and 99 yards.

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Tom Brady throws a pair of TDs to Shane Vereen in sharp preseason outing

08.22.14 at 10:02 pm ET
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Tom Brady was in complete command in preseason game No. 3 against the Panthers. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Tom Brady was in complete command in preseason game No. 3 against the Panthers. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — The night didn’t start out smoothly for Tom Brady but by the end, his numbers spoke volumes as the Patriots starting quarterback had a productive night in the dress rehearsal for the regular season.

Brady played five series, finishing 17-of-21 for 204 yards, with a pair of touchdown passes to Shane Vereen as the Patriots built a big lead on their way to a preseason win over the Carolina Panthers. Brady’s quarterback rating was 138.9.

Brady looked a little shaky on his first two series, misfiring with Brandon LaFell on a third down pass and tripping and nearly fumbling a handoff to Shane Vereen on the next series. On the fumble, he appeared to be kneed in the back.

He came out of the game as Ryan Mallett got his only look of the night with the starting unit. Mallett led the Patriots down the field to a field goal.

Brady then played the next three series, including opening up the third quarter. Brady connected with Vereen on a perfectly executed wheel route down the right sideline for a 40-yard touchdown in the second quarter. On his final drive of the night, Brady connected with Julian Edelman on consecutive passes for gains of 18 and 35 yards, with the latter coming on a perfectly thrown ball over Edelman’s right shoulder on a go route.

Brady capped off his drive by finding Vereen in the flat on a red zone route at the Panthers 4. Vereen turned his body and stretched for the pylon for the touchdown.

Brady is likely to sit out next Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

 

Read More: Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, Shane Vereen, Tom Brady
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