Daily Archives: October 11th, 2011

GAMEPLAN: Here’s one way the Dallas Cowboys can beat the Patriots

Dallas Cowboys Sean Lee

Dallas Cowboys Sean Lee

Sean Lee is the best tackler on the Cowboys with a team-leading 35 on the NFC’s top-ranked defense.

But Lee is also the team’s best coverage linebacker — and that’s where he’ll earn his keep this weekend when the Cowboys visit the New England Patriots.

Three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady has been on fire through the first five weeks of the season, throwing for an NFL-best 1,874 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Brady is completing almost 68 percent of his passes and averaging 9.6 yards every time he drops back to throw. He has authored the league’s only 500-yard passing game this season plus a 400-yard game and two other 300-yard games.

To stop the Patriots, you must stop the pass — and that means stopping the tight ends. No one likes throwing to his biggest targets more than Brady.

Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski arrived in the 2010 draft and have changed the way the Patriots do business through the air.

Brady threw a league-high 36 touchdown passes last season, and a team-high 10 of them went to the rookie Gronkowski. Hernandez caught six more. This season, five of Brady’s TD passes have gone to Gronkowski, with Hernandez catching two more.

The spread is the formation of choice for the Patriots, and Brady likes the mismatches it creates when a Gronkowski or Hernandez is on the flank or in the slot. Gronkowski goes 6-6, 265 pounds and Hernandez 6-1, 245. They can outmuscle cornerbacks and outrun linebackers. Assigning safeties to them leaves the middle of the field vulnerable for crossing routes by Wes Welker and Deion Branch.

So Lee becomes the best option for the Cowboys because he does have the size (6-2, 242) to jostle with New England’s tight ends plus above-average speed. The Jets and Redskins both found that out.

Lee intercepted a Mark Sanchez pass intended for tight end Dustin Keller in the opener against the Jets, and he picked off a Rex Grossman pass for tight end Fred Davis in the Cowboys’ home opener against the Redskins.

 

HOMERS: Patriots face first NFC team with a visit from Dallas

The Patriots (4-1) will look to improve upon their record at Gillette Stadium and in the month of October this Sunday when they face the Dallas Cowboys (2-2) in their first game of the 2011 season against an NFC opponent.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (4-1) vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (2-2)
Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 4:15 p.m. ET
Gillette Stadium (68,756)

Download Game Release PDF >>

The New England Patriots will promote breast cancer awareness during the month of October as part of the NFL and the American Cancer Society’s ‘A Crucial Catch’ campaign. The Patriots players and coaches wore pink game apparel on October 2 at Oakland and will wear pink game apparel again this week against Dallas.

The Patriots will look to improve upon their record at Gillette Stadium and in the month of October this Sunday when they face Dallas in their first game of the 2011 season against an NFC opponent. Since their state-of-the-art facility opened at the beginning of the 2002 season, the Patriots own the NFL’s best record at home overall with a 69-14 record. With the win last week, the Patriots improved to a 31-5 record in the month of October since the 2003 season, including a 17-1 record in home games.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TELEVISION: This week’s game will be broadcast by FOX and can be seen in Boston on WFXT-TV Channel 25. Thom Brennaman will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman providing color. Pam Oliver will serve as the sideline reporter. The game will be produced by Richie Zyontz and directed by Rich Russo.

RADIO: 98.5 FM, The Sports Hub, is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network’s 37 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Gil Santos is in his 35th season as the voice of the Patriots and will call the action along with Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti. Former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak will provide sideline analysis. The Dallas Cowboy Radio Network info can be found here.

PATRIOTS RECORD AGAINST THE NFC AT HOME SINCE 2002
The Patriots have won 17 straight games at Gillette Stadium against NFC opponents. The only loss was the very first game against an NFC opponent at the new stadium in 2002 when the visiting Green Bay Packers beat the Patriots, 28-10, on Oct. 13.

SERIES HISTORY

The New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys will meet for the 11th time in team history and the first since the Patriots beat Dallas, 48-27, on Oct. 14, 2007 in Dallas when both teams entered the game with 5-0 records.

The Cowboys hold a 7-3 series lead, including 3-2 in Foxboro and 4-1 in Dallas. The Cowboys lost 12-0 in their only other visit to Gillette Stadium on Nov. 16, 2003. The Cowboys won the first seven games of the series from 1971-1996, but the Patriots have claimed victories in the last three games.

The Patriots first win against Dallas was a 13-6 decision at Foxboro Stadium on Dec. 5, 1999. The series dates back to 1971, when the Cowboys beat the Patriots in the first game ever played at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas.

SERIES TRENDS
Overall Record, 3-7

Record in New England, 2-3
– Record in Foxboro Stadium, 1-3
– Record in Gillette Stadium, 1-0

Record in Dallas, 1-4

Bill Belichick vs. Dallas, 3-1 (2-0 with New England)

Jason Garrett vs. New England, 0-0

BRADY AGAINST THE NFC AND NFC EAST

  • Brady is 7-1 all-time against the NFC East with his only loss coming in 2003 game against the Washington Redskins.
  • Brady is 16-2 at home against the NFC overall, and 15-1 at Gillette Stadium against the NFC. His only loss at Gillette Stadium was the 28-10 loss on Oct. 13, 2002 to Green Bay.
  • Brady is 31-5 against the NFC overall in the regular season.
CONNECTIONS

NEW ENGLAND TIES

  • LB Alex Albright was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Boston College in 2011.
DALLAS AND TEXAS TIES
  • Patriots QB Ryan Mallet graduated from Texas High School in Texarkana, Texas which is three hours away from Dallas. Mallet was named Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Texas in 2006.
  • WR Wes Welker attended Texas Tech University from 2001- 2004.
  • Rookie OL Kyle Hix attended the University of Texas and was signed as a free agent on July 27, 2011.
  • T Marcus Cannon was drafted in the 5th round (138th overall) out of Texas Christian in the 2011 draft.
  • G Brian Waters attended the University of North Texas from 1995-1999.
  • T Sebastian Vollmer went to the University of Houston from 2005-2008 and was drafted in the 2nd round (58th overall) in the 2009 draft.
FORMER NFL TEAMMATES
  • Patriots DE Shaun Ellis, DB James Ihedigbo, and RB Danny Woodhead all played alongside DE Kenyon Coleman and S Abram Elam with the New York Jets.
  • DE Andre Carter suited up with G Derrick Dockery for the Washington Redskins in 2006.
  • Dallas backup QB Jon Kitna has 17 career touchdown passes to WR Chad Ochocinco during the duo’s tenure at Cincinnati. Ochocinco’s first career touchdown reception came from Kitna in 2001 against the San Diego Chargers in Week 3 of the season.
  • DE Andre Carter teamed up with G Kyle Kosier for three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers from 2002-2004.
  • LB Tracy White played with P Mat McBrair (Seattle Seahawks ’03), S Gerald Sensabaugh (Jacksonville Jaguars =05 ), and CB Frank Walker (Green Bay Packers ’07).
  • G Dan Connolly also played with S Gerald Sensabaugh with the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2006 season.
FORMER COLLEGE TEAMMATES
  • DE Ron Brace played together with Dallas rookie LB Alex Albright at Boston College for two seasons (2007-2008).
  • WR Matthew Slater teamed up with K Kai Forbath at UCLA. Slater played alongside the kicker during the 2007 season.
  • WR Kevin Ogletree and TE John Phillips played with Patriots’ LS Danny Aiken at the University of Virginia from 2008-2009.
  • Cowboys’ TE Jason Witten, who played DE in college, teamed up with DT/DE Albert Haynesworth and DE Shaun Ellis at the University of Tennessee to form a future all-star front. Ellis was drafted in the 2000 draft (12th overall), Haynesworth selected in the 2002 draft (15th overall), and Witten (69th overall) in the 2003 draft. The trio has tallied 11 Pro-Bowl appearances to date.
  • RB Kevin Faulk played with S Bradie James at LSU during the 1999 season. James was a true freshman during the 1999 season. Faulk holds nine school records at LSU.
PASSING PERFORMANCES
Tom Brady is scheduled to start at quarterback against Dallas for the third time in his career. He has a 2-0 record against the Cowboys. The last time he played Dallas, he threw for 388 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-27 win.

PATRIOTS VS. NFC
The Patriots have been successful against NFC teams in recent seasons, compiling a 35-5 (.875) regular-season record against the conference since 2001. Including the postseason, the Patriots are 38-6 (.864) against the NFC with a 3-1 Super Bowl record since 2001.

The Patriots were 4-0 against the NFC last season, beating Minnesota (28-18) and Green Bay (31-27) at home and Detroit (45-24) and Chicago (36-7) on the road.

The Patriots are 7-1 against the NFC East in the regular season since realignment in 2002. The Patriots only loss was a 20-17 defeat at Washington in 2003.The Patriots have squared off against the NFC East in two seasons, finishing 3-1 in 2003 and 4-0 in 2007. In addition to this week’s game against Dallas, the Patriots will host the New York Giants on Nov. 6 and travel to Philadelphia on Nov. 27 and Washington on Dec. 11.

PATRIOTS ARE SHARP AT GILLETTE
The Patriots have now won 19 straight regular season home games dating back to a 47-7 win over Arizona on Dec. 21, 2008. The Patriots own an overall record of 62-12 (.838) at Gillette Stadium in regular season games. Since their state-of-the-art facility opened at the beginning of the 2002 season, the Patriots own the NFL’s best record at home all-time.

PATRIOTS WICKED GOOD IN OCTOBER
The Patriots are 31-5 in the month of October since the 2003 season and have won 22 out of their last 24 October games. The Patriots are 17-1 at home and 14-4 on the road during that time in October. New England was 4-0 in October in 2010.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN 2011
The Patriots own an overall record of 62-12 (.838) at Gillette Stadium in regular season games. Since their state-of-the-art facility opened at the beginning of the 2002 season, the Patriots own the NFL’s best record at home.

RECORD SETTING PACE
QUALIFIER – Five games into the season, a number of Patriots players are on pace for record-breaking seasons. While we know these won’t be realistic projections, it is fun to look at what the numbers would be if they continued at this pace.

TOM BRADY

  • Tom Brady (1,874) is on pace to throw for 5,997 yards. Only two NFL players have thrown for 5,000 or more yards in a season with Dan Marino’s NFL record 5,084 in 1984 and Drew Brees’ 5,069 in 2008.
  • Brady has 14 touchdowns, putting him on pace for 45 touchdown passes, which would be his second season with 40 or more touchdowns. He had an NFL-record 50 touchdowns in 2007.
  • Brady currently has an NFL record of 30 straight wins as a starter in the regular season at home. The last time the Patriots lost a regular season home game which Brady started was on Nov. 12, 2006 against the New York Jets.
  • Brady has a current streak of 21 straight games with at least one touchdown pass, a Patriots team record.
  • Brady has 115 wins as a starter and needs two more wins to tie Joe Montana (117) for 7th all-time.
JULIAN EDELMAN

  • Julian Edelman has the highest punt return average in Patriots history with a 13.6-yard average (36-489).
BENJARVUS GREEN-ELLIS

  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis has 18 touchdown runs since the beginning of the 2010 season, the most in the NFL. Houston’s Arian Foster is second with 17.
ROB GRONKOWSKI

  • Rob Gronkowski has five touchdowns so far in 2011, putting him on pace for 16 for the year. The NFL record for most touchdowns in a season by a tight end is 13 by Vernon Davis (SF) in 2009 and Antonio Gates (SD) in 2004. Gronkowski last season set the franchise record for touchdowns by a rookie tight end with 10.
  • Gronkowski has 15 touchdown catches in 21 career NFL games.
WES WELKER

  • Wes Welker has 45 receptions through four weeks and is on pace for 144, which would break Marvin Harrison’s single season record of 143, set in 2002.
  • Welker has 740 receiving yards and is on pace for 2,368, which would break Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 set in 1995.
  • Wes Welker had a career-high 217 receiving yards to set a franchise record (09/25/11) at Buffalo, breaking the previous record set by Terry Glenn with 214 receiving yards.
  • Welker has a streak of 66 straight regular season games with at least one reception as a member of the Patriots to extend a franchise record. TE Ben Coates held the previous mark with 63 straight games.
  • Welker has caught at least one pass in 83 straight regular season games in his NFL career.
  • Welker is tied with six other NFL players as the only players in NFL history to have at least eight receptions, 150 yards and at least one touchdown three times in a single season.
VINCE WILFORK

  • Vince Wilfork has two interceptions so far in 2011 and is one of four Patriots defensive lineman to ever register two career interceptions. Anthony Pleasant (2001) is the only other Patriots defensive lineman to record two interceptions in a single season.
  • The Patriots currently have 165 points and are on pace to finish with 528 points, which would be second in team history and fifth all-time in NFL history. The 2007 Patriots have the record with 587.
  • The Patriots are averaging 33.0 points per game in 2011. That number would be second all-time in team history. In 2007, the Patriots averaged 36.8 points per game.
  • The Patriots have scored 30 or more points in 13 straight games. The NFL record is 14 by St. Louis (1999-2000).

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

BY THE NUMBERS

2
The number of games where the Patriots had three players with seven or more receptions: at Miami (9/12) and vs. San Diego (9/18).

2
The number of 2011 draft picks that were in the opening day starting lineup after T Nate Solder started at right tackle and S Ras-I Dowling started at cornerback.

2
The number of interceptions by Vince Wilfork in 2011. Anthony Pleasant (2001) is the only other Patriots defensive lineman to record two interceptions in the same season.

5
The number of touchdown catches by TE Rob Gronkowski in 2011. He is on pace for 16, which would be an NFL record.

7.15
The number of receptions that Wes Welker is averaging during his Patriots career with 477 receptions in 66 games, best in franchise history.

5.38
The average yards per carry by Danny Woodhead during his Patriots career (123 att. for 662 yards), the best average among any Patriots player with at least 100 rushing attempts.

10
The number of career 100-yard receiving games by Deion Branch after he finished with 8 receptions for 129 yards in the win vs. San Diego (9/18).

13
The number of consecutive games that the Patriots have scored 30 or more points, dating back to last season. That active streak is a franchise record.

18
The number of rushing touchdowns by BenJarvus Green-Ellis since the start of the 2010 season, the most in the NFL.

19
The number of 10-tackle games by LB Jerod Mayo after he finished with a team-high 11 total tackles vs. San Diego (9/18).

622
The number of total yards by the Patriots in the win at Miami in the season opener, a franchise record. The previous best was 619 yards vs. Tennessee (10/18/09).

740
The number of receiving yards by Wes Welker after five games, the most yards in the first five games in NFL history. In 2010, Welker led the Patriots with 848 total yards to finish 11th in the AFC.

TOM BRADY BY THE NUMBERS

1
The number of NFL quarterbacks that followed a 500-yard performance with a 400-yard performance after Brady had back-to-back games with 517 yards and 423 yards.

6
The number of times that Brady has finished a season with 25 or more touchdowns. He is the sixth QB in NFL history to have 25 or more touchdown passes in at least six different seasons.

8
The number of times Tom Brady has passed for 3,000 or more yards in a season, a franchise record for most 3,000-yard seasons. He finished the season with 3,900 yards.

11
The number of times an NFL quarterback has thrown for 500 or more yards after Brady threw for 517 in the 2011 opener at Miami.

19
The number of times Tom Brady has earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. He earned the award in each of the first two weeks of the 2011 season.

18
The number of NFL quarterbacks that have reached 35,000 yards after Brady (36,618) reached the milestone at Miami.

30
The number of consecutive regular-season starts that Tom Brady has won at Gillette Stadium, extending an NFL record for most consecutive home wins by a starting quarterback in the regular season.

36
The number of touchdown passes thrown by Brady in 2010 to lead the NFL. He is one of just 13 players since the 1970 merger to have at least two 30 touchdown seasons. He set an NFL record with 50 in 2007.

38
The number of regular season 300-yard passing games by Tom Brady, a team record. He is in 9th place for the most 300-yard games in NFL history.

86
The number of times that Brady has thrown two or more touchdowns in a game. The Patriots are 73-13 when he throws for two or more touchdowns.

115
The number of wins that Brady has as a starting quarterback. He reached the 100-win milestone in the fewest number of starts (131) among all quarterbacks in the modern era.

1,327
The number of passing yards Brady had in the first three games (517, 423 and 387). Brady’s 1,327 yards set the NFL mark for the most passing yards ever in a three-game stretch.

THE KRAFT ERA

3
The number of Super Bowl championships the Patriots have won since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994. That mark is the highest total in the NFL over that span. Only Denver (2; 1997 and 1998) and Pittsburgh (2; 2005 and 2008) have won multiple Super Bowl titles since 1994.

5
The number of conference championships the Patriots have won since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994. That mark is the highest total in the NFL over that span. Pittsburgh is second with three conference titles since 1994.

10
The number of division championships won by the Patriots since Kraft purchased the team in 1994.

12
The number of playoff seasons earned by the Patriots in the 17 seasons since Robert Kraft purchased the team.

17
The number of playoff games the Patriots have won since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994. That mark is the highest total in the NFL over that span. Pittsburgh ranks second with 15 playoff wins over that span.

26
The number of playoff games the Patriots have appeared in since 1994. The mark is tied with Pittsburgh for the most playoff games during that time period.

THE BELICHICK ERA

4
Bill Belichick is one of just four coaches to win three championships since the Super Bowl era began. Belichick joins three members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the exclusive club (Chuck Noll 4, Joe Gibbs 3 and Bill Walsh 3). Belichick is the only coach to win three Super Bowls in the post-1993 salary cap era and the only one to ever win three in four years.

181
Bill Belichick has 181 career victories as a head coach, including playoff games. Belichick is in sole possession of 10th place in all-time coaching victories.


PATRIOTS DEDICATE 2011 SEASON TO MYRA KRAFT

The New England Patriots announced that they will dedicate the 2011 season to the loving memory of Myra Kraft, who passed away on July 20 after a courageous battle with cancer. Every Patriots player and coach will honor Myra’s memory by wearing a patch with her initials on it in recognition of her lifelong contributions to the local and global community and her influence on the charitable mission of the entire Patriots organization. The patch will be worn on the left chest of every player throughout the season.

 
Courtesy: New England Patriots team website

HOMER: Struggling Cowboys next up for Patriots

The circus known as the New York Jets just limped out-of-town with its third straight road loss.

Now, step right up folks, here come the Dallas Cowboys, the storied franchise that in more storied times was called “America’s Team” and around which much noise swirls naturally.

The 2-2 Cowboys, for whom no lead is too large to squander, will be at Gillette Stadium this coming Sunday to play the 4-1 Patriots.

Exit Rex Ryan, extremely loud head coach of the Jets, whose team was beaten in Foxboro this past Sunday, 30-21.

Enter Rex’s twin brother Rob, the Cowboys’ extremely loud defensive coordinator, who was the Patriots’ linebackers coach from 2000-03.

Moving from beating Rex’s defense to preparing for Rob’s, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday, “I wouldn’t say they’re exactly the same, but there’s definitely some carryover.”

Long-since free from Belichick’s censorship, and permitted now to recklessly exercise his First Amendment rights, Rob Ryan told The Dallas Morning News before the Cowboys’ Oct. 2 game against the Detroit Lions that his defense faced two better receivers every day in practice (Dez Bryant and Miles Austin) than Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. After Johnson caught two touchdown passes, including the game-winner in Detroit’s 34-30 comeback victory, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, a former office worker for Belichick in Cleveland, said, “I’m just glad the third-best receiver on their team is on our team.”

The Cowboys, their offense ranked sixth and defense ranked fourth (No. 1 against the run) in the NFL, are coming off their bye week. Coach Jason Garrett’s team has had two weeks to stew over blowing a 24-point third-quarter lead and losing that game at home to the Lions. That was the largest blown lead in Cowboys history. On the road against the Jets in the their season-opener, the Cowboys blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter for the first time in franchise history and lost 27-24.

How about them Cowboys?

Their quarterback, Tony Romo, is an enigma wrapped inside a roller coaster that rides between what-a-talent and what-the-bleep-was-he-thinking-on-that-throw? The Lions returned two interceptions for touchdowns during their comeback in Dallas. Romo (99 of 152, 65.1 percent, 1,273 yards, 7 TDs, 5 INTs) embodies a team whose star-power — and that includes attention-grabbing owner Jerry Jones — has far exceeded its results in recent years. The Cowboys have won two playoff games since 1995, when they won their third Super Bowl title in four years and the franchise’s fifth title overall.

“A team we don’t know, (a) very talented team, fast team, explosive team,” said Belichick, whose Patriots last played the Cowboys in 2007, winning 48-27.

Bryant (10 catches, 171 yards, 3 TDs), Austin (14-233-4 ) and tight end Jason Witten (27-366-1), along with running back Felix Jones (56 carries, 241 yards, 4.3 avg.), will be a handful for a Patriots defense hoping to build on a promising performance against the Jets. Seven of New York’s 11 offensive possessions on Sunday were three-and-outs. On the downside, the Jets’ two trips into the red zone both resulted in a touchdowns. Their other scoring play came from just beyond the red zone, a 21-yard pass.

“There are a lot of things we could do better,” said Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, “but the penalties are down, (and) we aren’t giving up big plays.”

The Jets’ largest gain from scrimmage was 22 yards. In the Patriots’ first four games, opponents combined for 26 pass completions over 20 yards, and 13 rushes over 10 yards. The Jets’ longest run on Sunday was nine yards.

While not ready to draw comparisons between his 32nd-ranked defense and the 1985 Chicago Bears, Belichick saw in Sunday’s defensive performance “some good things to build on.”

By David Pevear | Sentinel and Enterprise | FITCHBURG, MA

SportsDay On Air: Dallas Cowboy grades through first four games

VIDEO - SportsDay On Air - Click on picture to watch

VIDEO - SportsDay On Air - Click on picture to watch

 

 

After New England, Dallas Cowboys’ schedule favors a run at NFC East title

Dallas Cowboys LG Marcus Spears

Dallas Cowboys LG Marcus Spears

IRVING — The Cowboys’ schedule sets up well for them, especially after getting past Sunday’s game at 4-1 New England. The next three opponents – St. Louis, Philadelphia and Seattle – have a combined record of 3-11.

The 12 teams remaining on the Cowboys’ schedule have a combined record of only 25-32. But the next eight games will likely dictate whether the Cowboys return to the playoffs this season or not. That’s because the last quarter of Dallas’ schedule is its most difficult remaining hurdle with two games against the New York Giants, a game at Tampa Bay and a home date with Philadelphia.

“The whole league is wide open right now. You look at it week to week,” Cowboys cornerback Alan Ball said. “People say it’s hard to win in the NFL and you can just see it. You have teams that are coming out of everywhere, winning and playing good ball and it’s exciting because everybody is kind of even keel.”

A win Sunday at New England would certainly put the Cowboys in great shape.

“Yeah, we’re probably going to get killed. They’re the greatest team to ever play football,” Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears said sarcastically. “We’re not deeming this team gods of football. They can be beat. We saw it.”

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Just for fun, let’s pace the season

A REAL MAN of GENIUS!

Some of you could care less about stats – other than how many Ws there are at the end. Nothing wrong with that.

But there are others who get excited about end of the season totals and how certain guys rank around the league or in team history.

So through four games of the season, obviously we’re a quarter of the way done. Easy math shows us the pace this team and these players are on for the rest of the year. Of course, it doesn’t always play out that way, but it’s fun to check out the pace.

Tony Romo – Through four games, Romo has thrown for 1,273 yards, with seven scores and five interceptions. At this pace, Romo will shatter his own franchise record with 5,092 passing yards, which would also be an NFL record, surpassing Dan Marino (5,084) set in 1984.  

DeMarcus Ware – With five sacks in the first four game, it’s not difficult to stretch that over the course of the year. Ware is on pace to have 20 sacks, which would equal his career-high of 20 he had in 2008.

Jason Witten – His consistency in the lineup has allowed him to get off to a fast start, one that would top career highs in catches and yards. Witten currently has 27 receptions for 366 yards and just one score. If he keeps that pace, Witten will have 108 catches, which would be just three short if Michael Irvin’s franchise mark of 111 set in 1995. Witten is on pace for 1,494 receiving yards, which would be third in franchise history.

Miles Austin – Injuries have limited him to just two games this year so it’s difficult to get a good reading on him. He’s got four touchdowns in four games, although he’s averaging two per game. That would be quite a pace if he could keep that up. Still, an average of one touchdown per game would give him 16 receiving touchdowns, besting Terrell Owens’ record of 15 set in 2007.

Dez Bryant – Has scored three touchdowns in four games. He’s on pace to get 12 touchdowns on just 40 receptions. Obviously, injuries have slowed him as well.

Felix Jones – Even with two solid games the last two weeks, he’s still not on pace to become the Cowboys’ first 1,000-yard rusher in four years. Jones has 241 yards and if he keeps that up, he’ll finish with 964 yards.

Sean Lee – The second-year linebacker has been phenomenal through four games, with 47 tackles, two interceptions and four pass deflections with two forced fumbles. If there was any way, Lee could stay on that pace, we’re talking about 188 tackles, eight interceptions and eight forced fumbles? That’s absurd. He’s not just in the Pro Bowl, but he’s starting at middle linebacker.

Dan Bailey – The rookie has been sensational so far, with just one miss in 13 attempts. With 12 field goals, he’s on pace for 48, which would shatter Richie Cunningham’s mark of 34. Also, Bailey has 45 points – a pace of 180 points. The franchise record is 150 points set by Emmitt Smith. Whether or not Bailey stays on pace, he still has a good shot to surpass that record.

Danny McCray – This one is off the radar a bit, but with 10 special teams tackles through four games, McCray is one pace for 40 special teams tackles, which would shatter the franchise record of 32 set by Jim Schwantz in 1996.

Then again, what matters the most is the wins and losses. So if we’re talking about the pace, the Cowboys are 2-2 and obviously staring at an 8-8 record, which won’t be good enough to make the playoffs. So all these records and franchise marks won’t matter much anyway.

But for some, it’s fun to look ahead and see what the pace is for this first quarter of the season.

Advantage Dallas Cowboys against NE’s defense

In any other match-up, the fact the Cowboys have a high-powered offense, two weeks to prepare and facing the NFL’s worst defense would seemingly be a bigger factor in the game.

For some reason, it’s being overlooked. Maybe it has something to do with that Tom Brady guy over there running New England’s offense. Stats are stats and we can make whatever we want out of them.

Yes, the Patriots are dead last in the NFL in total defense, allowing 433 yards per game. And yes, they’re last in passing defense, surrendering 326.6 yards per game through the air.  Throw in the fact the Cowboys are sixth in total offense and third in passing offense and that could be a way the Cowboys have success this Sunday in Foxboro.

Then again, it’s being overlooked. And rightfully so when you factor in those stats are based off yards only, not points. So the Patriots have been racking up big leads in every game, even the one they lost in Buffalo, the Pats were up 21-0.

So of course teams are going to pass on them to get back in the game and the Patriots are probably not as aggressive, trying to prevent the big play.

So yes, stats can be deceiving at times. However, dead last is dead last. This isn’t the 2000 Ravens over there on defense for the Patriots, who have had better defenses over the years.

Obviously, to beat the Patriots, you have to score points because you know they will. But at least the Patriots’ weakness will be matched up against the Cowboys’ strength. That’s at least a good start in formulating a plan to beat them.

Dallas Cowboys dusting off the blues for this week

Everyone remembers the 2009 win over the Saints, who were undefeated at 13-0 and stunned by a resilient Cowboys team that night in New Orleans. But do you remember the next week, when the Cowboys shut out the Redskins 17-0 on the road?

There wasn’t much memorable stuff from that game but it was the last time the Cowboys wore their road blue jerseys in any game, preseason or regular season. That will change Sunday when the Cowboys sport their blues against the Patriots in Foxboro.

This will be the only game in the blue road jerseys this year, although the Cowboys will once again wear their traditional throwbacks on Thanksgiving Day against Miami.

The main reason for the drought has been the change by the Redskins, who typically always wore white at home until new coach Mike Shanahan arrived and has them home team wearing their reds at home. The Cowboys wore white at FedEx Field last year and will do the same on Nov. 20.

Also, more teams have started to wear white jerseys at home earlier in the season, but the Cowboys just haven’t been in warm-weather games on the road the last two years. Both road games this year against the Jets and 49ers didn’t warrant a change by the home team. New England wears an assortment of different uniforms at home, including last week when they donned the red throwback uniforms from the 1970’s and 80’s.

The last time the Cowboys played in Foxboro, they wore the blue jerseys in a 12-0 loss to the Patriots in 2003.

Dallas Cowboys’ ground attack is making strides

IRVING — The Cowboys’ ground attack still has room to improve but it’s getting better. In its last two games, Dallas has averaged 119 rushing yards per game after accumulating a total of 109 rushing yards in its first two contests.

“I think as the season has gone on from the first game I think we’ve run it better and better each week and hopefully we’re hitting our stride,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We have some young players playing on the offensive line and those guys have done a nice job adapting to what we’re trying to do in the run game and the pass game and we’re hopeful that if they continue with the same approach that we get better in all areas on offense.”

Against Detroit and Washington, the Cowboys have collected more than 100 yards on the ground. This Sunday, they could surpass the century mark yet again. After all, the Patriots yield an average of 106.4 rushing yards per game.

“Everything is a work in progress,” running back Tashard Choice said. “Everybody has to be on the same page. We’ve got good offensive linemen, our receivers block, we pass the ball well. All of the backs, we’ve got to run the ball and make sure we take advantage of the holes we have.”

DAL D: Pressuring Brady a necessity

When in doubt, just try to pressure the quarterback. It’ll be a huge part of the Cowboys’ plan to disrupt Tom Brady this week.

“I think that’s important every week,” Jason Garrett said. “You always want to effect the quarterback and make him move off his spot. You don’t want him to be comfortable in the pocket, so you do that individually with just pass rushers beating offensive linemen or tight ends or backs, and you also try to do that with scheme. This guy’s a great player, though.”

As efficient and high-powered as Brady and the New England offense can be, the Patriots can still be beat in the same way as other teams, with constant pressure on the quarterback.

It helped the Bills beat New England earlier this year. While they never sacked the future Hall of Famer, they did hit him four times, and gave different looks up front, enough disruption to force four interceptions. In their  playoff upset of New England last year, the Jets sacked Brady five times.

And maybe the most encouraging sign for the Cowboys, Rob Ryan’s Cleveland Browns shut down New England’s passing game in Week 9 of 2010. While they sacked him just once, hit him only twice and didn’t intercept him all game, they forced Brady into short throws by keeping things in front of the safeties and creating confusion up front.

The end result was a flat, 226-yard performance by Brady, who was pulled in the fourth quarter.

So it can be done, the Cowboys know, but that won’t make it easy. Brady has been sacked only eight times in five games this year.

After creating 12 sacks in the first three games of the season, the Cowboys only got to Detroit’s Matt Stafford once in Week 4, in large part because of how quickly he got rid of the ball. Brady has that ability as well.

“You’ve just got to keep going,” linebacker Anthony Spencer said. “This guy, he’s the same type of way. He’s going to get the ball out fast. He reads coverages pretty quickly and gets the ball out. So we’re just going to have to keep at it.”

RIVAL: Patriots hope to ‘get to another level’ against the Dallas Cowboys

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Five weeks into their season with newcomers playing key roles, the New England Patriots are developing into a solid group.

The running attack has had two consecutive strong games. The defense had its best day of the year on Sunday. And, as usual, Tom Brady and Wes Welker were outstanding.

The Patriots are gelling. Or so it seems.

“You can’t really say that,” safety James Ihedigbo said Monday. “There’s a lot of football left to be played and our goal as a team is to get better each week. So, I guess, it’s to be seen how good we can be.”

The encouraging signs could dim as soon as Sunday when Dallas visits New England. Coming off a bye week, the Cowboys have plenty of time to prepare. They also have pass-rushing star DeMarcus Ware going against a team that allowed Brady to be sacked four times in the Patriots 30-21 win over their AFC East rival New York Jets on Sunday.

“I thought we did a decent job at times” on offense, Brady said, “but I thought we obviously left a lot of points out there.”

The Patriots had some problems on special teams, allowing an 88-yard kickoff return by Joe McKnight.

Still, it was their most complete performance of the season and improved their record to 4-1 with their 19th straight — and Brady’s 30th straight — regular-season win at home.

The defense had been dreadful in the first four games, giving up a league-worst 477.5 yards per game. They held the Jets to just 255.

The running game produced a total of 308 yards in the first three games and 335 in the next two.

With better offensive balance, Brady’s production declined from an average of 442.3 yards passing in the first three games to 273.5 in the next two. But Welker kept gaining huge chunks of yardage, picking up 124 yards on five receptions against the Jets for a total of 740, the most in NFL history through a team’s first five games.

“Guys came in very focused, understanding that this was a big game for us and it can really get us a jump-start in the division,” Welker said.

It’s taken a while for players to adjust to their new system and teammates.

There are a lot of different faces on defense— linemen Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis, Albert Haynesworth and Mark Anderson and safety Ihedigbo.

“I am very proud of the defense,” said tackle Vince Wilfork, in his eighth year with the Patriots. “Is everything perfect? No. There are a lot of things we could do better, but I think the penalties are down, we aren’t giving up big plays. We have to continue to grow.”

The offensive line has three new starters, right guard Brian Waters, rookie right tackle Nate Solder and center Dan Connolly, who took over when Dan Koppen suffered a season-ending injury in the opener. Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and rookie running back Stevan Ridley also have had to learn a new system.

“With the new rules, we’ve been in one padded practice a week,” said running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who rushed for a career-high 136 yards with two touchdowns against the Jets. “It’s kind of important that we get those things taken care during the week when we do have those pads on.”

Before the season, Belichick said it would take about a month to get a handle on what kind of team he had.

So, does he?

“We’ve learned a lot. We’ve made a lot of adjustments over the first five games in some of the things that we’re doing because we want to stay away from some things and move more to other areas,” Belichick said. “We didn’t wait ’til now to say, ‘OK, well let’s start looking at it.’

“We did it after the first game, after the second game and it’s a continuous work in progress,” he said. “It’s clear how some teams are trying to attack us in different areas and how teams are trying to defend us.”

The analysis continues this week in preparation for the Cowboys (2-2). The Patriots last faced them four years ago, winning 48-27 on Oct. 14, 2007. This will be only the third matchup since Belichick became coach in 2000.

It’s another chance for the Patriots to develop as a cohesive team or succeed in some areas and struggle in others.

“We’re focused on Dallas this week,” Ihedigbo said, “and another opportunity for us, as a team and as a defense, to really play to another level. So that’s what we’re working on.”

MLB: Texas Rangers win Game 2 on a historic walk-off grand slam

 ALCS Tigers Rangers Baseball

Texas Rangers’ Nelson Cruz, right, reacts as he passe the Detroit Tigers’ dugout after he hit a grand slam home run in the 11th inning of Game 2 of baseball’s American League championship series to beat the Tigers 7-3, Monday, Oct. 10, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

 

 

 

ARLINGTON, Texas — Nelson Cruz hit the first game-ending grand slam in postseason history, lifting the Texas Rangers over the Detroit Tigers 7-3 in 11 innings Monday for a 2-0 lead in the AL championship series.

Cruz doubled early, then hit a tying home run in the seventh inning. His second homer of the game was a high drive to left field off Ryan Perry with nobody out in the 11th, and came after a misplay in the Detroit outfield loaded the bases.

“It was amazing,” Cruz said. “First two pitches, I was too aggressive. I hit the ball — foul ball, foul ball. So after that, I told myself just slow down and try to hit a fly ball to the outfield.”

Cruz, hit on the wrist by a pitch in the ninth, connected for the fourth grand slam in the playoffs this year. Ryan Roberts and Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona and Robinson Cano of the Yankees also hit them.

STATS LLC confirmed that Cruz’s shot was the first slam to end a postseason game — with a postscript. Robin Ventura sent a tiebreaking drive over the fence to finish a New York Mets victory against Atlanta in the 1999 NLCS, but was swarmed by teammates between first and second.

Ventura never made it around the bases and was officially credited with a single. His 15th-inning drive for a 4-3 Mets win in Game 5 came to be known as “the grand slam-single.”

L.A. stadium: Two plans on the table to get NFL team in Los Angeles

65330531Well, the passing of Al Davis already has caused a seismic shift in the Southern California stadium shuffle.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times reports that Ed Roski, who hopes to build a new NFL venue in the City of Industry, has dropped his request for a no-cash minority stake in the team that would play there.

Instead, Roski is willing to “hand over the 600 acres” to the team that moves there. The team that moves there would be responsible for financing the stadium, and the team that moves there would sell Roski a share of the franchise at market value.

“I am continuing to work to bring NFL football back to Los Angeles,” Roski told Farmer via email in response to a request for confirmation. “The stadium at Grand Crossing creates a winning environment for fans, for the community and for the NFL now.

“My goal is to bring football back to Los Angeles, create jobs now, and to create an incredible NFL experience every game day for fans.”

Roski’s revised offer creates two dramatically different business models for the two proposed L.A. stadiums. The downtown facility that AEG wants to build would be financed and owned by AEG; the football team would be a tenant. The Grand Crossing project would give land to the NFL team at no cost, with the NFL team responsible for paying for the structure — but also pocketing all revenue flowing from its use.

Fundamental differences also exist in the non-game experiences that the stadiums would create. The AEG project, already named Farmers Field, would be a swanky, multi-use building in the heart of the L.A. Live complex. The stadium at Grand Crossing has enough adjacent parking areas to permit traditional day-long tailgating parties, which could be one of the extra perks needed to persuade fans (and families) to choose to watch games in person and not via their HDTVs.

The league apparently is playing this one down the middle for now, in the hopes of getting the best possible deal by leveraging the two proposals against each other. If that’s the strategy (and indeed it is), it’s working — as evidenced by Roski’s recent revision to his offer.

Hear new Hank Williams Jr. song: “Keep the Change”

Hank Williams Jr.

Singer Hank Williams has released a new song that contains lyrics criticizing both Fox and ESPN. Williams is upset with the two networks for the way they treated him after he was removed from during the introduction for Monday Night Football.
 
Ousted ESPN Monday Night Football singer Hank Williams Jr. released his new song blasting ESPN, Fox and Friends and the “United Socialist States of America” on his web site Tuesday.
 
The conservative country singer’s scheduled to appear on ESPN sister network ABC’s “The View” today (11 a.m. ET). Co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar defended his right to free speech after ESPN split with Williams for comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler on Fox’s morning talk show.
 

Have a listen and a look at the lyrics:

Hank Williams Jr - Keep the Change - Click on picture to hear song

Hank Williams Jr - Keep the Change

 

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