Curran: Can a team count on turnovers?

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Curran: Can a team count on turnovers?

Even the most diehard Patriots fan would agree that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a superior defense to New England.

By conventional measure. In terms of yards allowed, the Steelers are having an absurd season defensively allowing just 259.8 total yards per game. The Patriots are allowing 390.2.

But check this out: the Steelers have created nine turnovers this season. The Patriots have created 32. Thats 23 drives or would-be drives if the turnover came on special teams that were snuffed out before points could be scored. There are about 10 drives in every game (give or take) for each team. The Patriots have snuffed out more than two games worth of drives with turnovers. Additionally, the Patriots happen to have the stingiest quarterback in NFL history when it comes to giving the ball away. The Patriots have turned it over just eight times this season, three times on Brady picks.

They are plus-24 in turnover differential. The teams in second and third behind the Patriots in that statistic are Baltimore, Chicago and Washington. They are all plus-12.

Now, turnovers are a tough foundation on which to build a successful team. They are ephemeral, a product of luck. Can a team count on them? Especially in the playoffs when the quarterbacks are better and Ryan Fitzpatrick is in Cancun?

Who can say?

Last year, the Patriots were plus-17 third in the league after creating 34 takeaways during the year and when the Super Bowl came, fumbles bounced into the hands of Giants and interceptions were thrown by New England.

But the clip at which the Patriots are creating turnovers and the efficiency of the New England offense is a crushing 1-2 punch for prospective opponents.

Turnovers are a huge part of the game and other than points, theyre probably statistically the highest correlation to winning, Bill Belichick said Friday on a conference call. We had a lot of turnovers earlier in the year and we didnt get enough point production out of those turnovers. A lot of times, wed turn the ball over and end up leaving with not many points. So even though we had a turnover differential advantage, that didnt really translate into a big point advantage with those turnovers.

The past few weeks, that number has changed more in our favor where the turnovers have been converted into points and in a lot of cases, touchdowns, Belichick continued. We all saw how quickly that a very competitive game last night, that was a scoreless tie, a battle back and forth, then all the sudden its 35 points up there. But thats what happens. A big play, a turnover, score, another turnover, another big play and when you get all those yards in one play, whether its on a big play or a turnover, then thats what defines explosive plays.

Seven of the last eight turnovers the Patriots created have resulted in touchdowns. Four came on returns two pick returns, two fumble returns.

On the season, the Patriots have generated 97 points off turnovers. And many have been immediate.

It certainly changes the whole dynamic of the game even though a 14-play, 80-yard drive that takes seven and half minutes, you get the same amount of points and all that, but it takes longer and doesnt change the game as quickly obviously, said Belichick. You have to take advantage of those opportunities, to turn them into points, whether its Julians Edelman return or Steves Gregory return or like we had in the Indianapolis game, the strip sack and then the pass to Rob Gronkowski from the 20-yard line or whatever it was. When it happens that fast, it really can swing the momentum in a hurry.

The momentum is all swung New Englands way right now. Theyve won five in a row and seven-of-eight with the only loss being the weirdness in Seattle. A lot of it is turnover-based.

Is that a foundation made of sand or stone? The fun part will be finding out.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

From Schefter on Facebook:  

Specific details on Rob Gronkowski's new deal with Patriots, per @RosenhausSports:

1st tier, which gets him to $10.75M either 90 percent play time or 80 catches or 1200 receiving yards or All Pro -- and he's made All Pro four times.

2nd tier to $8.75M: he has to get 80 percent play time or 70 catches or 1000 receiving yards or 12 TDs.

3rd tier takes him to $6.75M is 70 percent playtime, 60 receptions, 800 receiving yards or 10 TDs.

But a big new groundbreaking deal for Gronk.

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10. 

Brandin Cooks ready to bring back arrow celebration after NFL rule change

Brandin Cooks ready to bring back arrow celebration after NFL rule change

Tuesday’s announcement from Roger Goodell that the NFL is “relaxing” its rules on celebrations is good news for at least one Patriot. 

That would be Brandin Cooks, who began celebrating the rule change on Twitter not long after the league made its announcement. 

Cooks, whom the Patriots acquired from the Saints this offseason in a trade that sent first and third-round picks to New Orleans, lost his favorite celebration last season when it was made clear that miming archery was off-limits. Josh Norman was fined $10,000 last season for such a celebration. 

Following Norman’s fine, Cooks lamented the league’s decision to punish what Cooks had previously done in reference to a Bible verse (Psalms 144:6). 

"Send forth lightning and scatter your enemy, and shoot your arrows and rout them," Cooks told the New Orleans Advocate. "I just remember it sticking with me for such a long time, I remember thinking, maybe I can do something with this."

Added Cooks: ”I’ve been doing it for three years now, and there was never a complaint about it. Now, all of a sudden, there is. It just reminds me that, it's almost as if they try to take so much away from us, but for something like this, that means so much to someone that has nothing to do with violence, it's frustrating. I'll definitely continue to speak my opinion about it, and if they have a problem with it, so be it."

When Tuesday’s news emerged, Cooks and former Saints teammate Mark Ingram were quick to react.