A few final random thoughts as we await kickoff to tonight’s game…

 

Arian Foster has fumbled twice in the last three games. Just a reminder: the Patriots lead the league in forced fumbles (30), fumble recoveries (19), fumbles returned for touchdowns (3), and takeaways (33). Foster may also be a bit worn out. With Ben Tate missing a lot of time with a hamstring injury this year, Foster is on pace to carry the ball 377 times this season. That work overload has had an adverse effect: he averaged 5.0 yards per carry in the first half of the season, and only 3.0 yards per carry since then.

Bill Belichick considers turnovers to be the stat with the highest correlation to winning and losing (other than points, obviously). The Pats have not had more turnovers than their opponent in 20 consecutive games; to put that in perspective the team with the next longest current streak is Carolina with six games.

Houston RT Derek Newton is out; let’s see if the Pats front seven can take advantage of his replacement, Ryan Harris.

Houston LB Brooks Reed is out for this game and Brian Cushing is on IR. Tim Dobbins and Bradie James are the inside linebackers, and that’s a place that the Patriots will surely attack. Expect to see some quick short passes where two receives cross and get open on a rub, turning a short pass into a big gain. The Houston defense has not been remotely as good as they previously were since the injury to Cushing.

Danieal Manning and/or Glover Quin will likely be assigned to cover Aaron Hernandez; he should be able to exploit the difference in size and strength.

Houston CB is Jonathan Joseph is probable, but is likely to not be 100%; CB Alan Ball will play but was unable to practice all week. Joseph is the Texans’ best corner but has been sidelined with hamstring and groin injuries. Kareem Jackson does not have the quickness to keep up with Wes Welker and neither Brandon Harris nor Roc Carmichael can keep up with Wes Welker; that means Joseph will most likely cover Welker. I would expect the Pats to not only go at Joseph, but to utilize the up-tempo no-huddle offense and see how Joseph holds up; the cold and rainy weather conditions aren’t going to help Joseph out at all. Expect the Pats to throw to whoever Ball draws in coverage (probably Brandon Lloyd) as well, to see how if he is physically ready to go.

While the Patriots have been skewered for allowing long pass plays, Houston is not much better in that department. The Texans have allowed 44 pass plays of 20+ yards this year; only six teams have allowed more.

Trivial info that may interest only me: the Texans’ kicker is Shayne Graham, who played for the Pats when Stephen Gostkowski went on IR in 2010. This is Graham’s sixth team in the last three years.

Something’s got to give: the Patriots have converted 68% of their third downs of five yards and fewer this season; the Texans have allowed opponents to convert only 39% of their third downs of five yards and fewer.

Slightly off topic: interesting to see that other fan bases also play the woulda’ coulda’ shoulda’ drafted this guy game, though this one does pose an interesting question: should the Dolphins have drafted a quarterback (Matt Ryan) rather than a tackle (Jake Long)?

Matt Light will be honored at tonight’s game. Interesting (but not surprising) that he said today on WEEI that the reason he has not been seen for a long time on ESPN as an NFL analyst is that after giving it a try, he decided that role was not suited for him. That’s too bad for us as fans, because I felt he had a great combination of insight, intelligence and wit.

 

 

This Day In Patriots History

 

December 10, 1960:
Ronnie Lippett was born in Melbourne, Florida. The Miami Hurricane was selected by the Pats in the 8th round of the 1983 draft and went on to start in 111 regular season and four playoff games for the Patriots from 1983-1991.

 

December 10, 1972:
New England Patriots 17, New Orleans Saints 10 at Tulane Stadium

Reggie Rucker caught two touchdown passes to lead the Pats to victory in New Orleans. After the Patriots opened up a 14-3 halftime lead the Saints abandoned the run, as Archie Manning threw the ball 52 times. The Pats defense responded well as 28 of those passes fell incomplete, and Honor Jackson, Rickie Harris and Dick Blanchard picked Manning off once each; for Blanchard it was the only interception of his NFL career. Rucker finished with five receptions for 98 yards, and Jim Plunkett went 16-24 for 209 yards and the two TDs.

The game was noteworthy for being the final victory for Phil Bengston as an NFL head coach, and also his only win as head coach of the Patriots. Bengston (who had the thankless task of replacing Vince Lombardi as head coach in Green Bay) coached the Pats for the final five games of the 1972 season when John Mazur was fired after losing six straight games; Chuck Fairbanks was brought in from Oklahoma University the following year.

 

December 10, 1978
New England Patriots 26, Buffalo Bills 24 at Schaefer Stadium

60,000 fans endured the elements and saw the Pats win their first division title in 15 years on David Posey’s 21-yard field goal with eight seconds left to play. The final play capped off a 2nd half rally where the Pats overcame a 17-7 deficit.

In the 3rd quarter Steve Grogan scored on a 4-yard keeper and then early in the 4th quarter Horace Ivory scored on a 20-yard run to give the pats a 17-14 lead. Buffalo regained the lead on a 21-yard touchdown pass by Joe Ferguson and things looked bleak for the Patriots. When Buffalo punter Rusty Jackson mishandled the snap, Tim Fox chased him out of the back of the end zone for a safety, which closed the lead to one – and gave the Pats possession of the ball again, leading to Posey’s kick.

 

December 10, 1989:
Miami Dolphins 31, New England Patriots 10 at Joe Robbie Stadium

Tight end Eric Sievers caught six passes for 117 yards but the Pats pass rush was no match for the quick release of Dan Marino. For Sievers those numbers were the highest he would post in his two years with the Pats, and second-highest of his ten year NFL career. Marc Wilson made his second start of the season at quarterback; after leading the Pats to victory the previous week he was much less successful against a solid Miami defense that sacked him five times, picked him off once, and limited him to 17-37 passing.

 

December 10, 1995:
New England Patriots 31, New York Jets 28

The Pats defense forced four turnovers to overcome a four-TD performance by Boomer Esiason and defeat the Jets in Foxboro.

Entering the 4th quarter the score was tied 14-14, with the New England points coming on a 37-yard pass from Drew Bledsoe to Hason Graham and a 9-yard rush by Curtis Martin. Matt Bahr’s 31-yard field goal put the Pats up by three, but New York scored on a 3-yard pass from Esiason to Adrian Murrell. Dave Meggett fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but an alert Troy Brown picked it up and ran 75 yards for a touchdown. Martin, who rushed for 148 yards in this game, then added a one-yard touchdown to ice the game. For that performance he was named the AFC Offensive Player Of The Week; he also set a franchise record with his 14th rushing touchdown of the season. Rookie Ty Law pitched in with an interception; it was the third consecutive week he had a pick.

 

December 10, 2000:
Chicago Bears 24, New England Patriots 17 at Soldier Field

Shane Matthews carved up the Pats with short, quick release slants as the Pats lost in Chicago. Drew Bledsoe was 25-46 for 225 yards, no interceptions and two touchdowns: a 12-yard toss to Terry Glenn, and a 7-yard throw to Troy Brown.

 

December 10, 2006:
Miami Dolphins 21, New England Patriots 0 at Dolphin Stadium

The Pats NFL-record streak of 21 consecutive regular season wins came to a halt in southern Florida, with a bit of controversy after the game ended. Dolphin players said after the game they knew the snap count and what was coming because the team had purchased enhanced audio tapes, which allowed them to know what audibles Tom Brady was calling. The situation became even bigger when Charlie Casserly of CBS said that what Miami did was perfectly legal, but announced that when he was previously on the NFL’s Competition Committee that the Patriots were warned about videotaping opponent’s signals … a statement that would be revisited and scrutinized nine months later.

As for the game itself, Miami’s Sammy Morris – who would become a Patriot the following season – rushed for 123 yards, and added 39 yards receiving. Kevin Faulk led the Pats with 181 all-purpose yards.

 

 

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December 10, 1967:
26-year old Otis Redding died in a plane crash

December 10, 1973:
The legendary CBGB club opened at 315 Bowery in Manhattan

December 10, 1974:
Meg White, drumer for The White Stripes, was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan

 

 

 

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