Moore's been nothing less than stellar for Pats


Moore's been nothing less than stellar for Pats

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- Having to play in the UFL is a humbling experience. Eric Moore knows that.

After all, the goal is to play in the NFL and, while you're there, make an impact.

After the Patriots' 38-7 win over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Moore wouldn't say he's made an impact in the month that he's been in New England.

But whether he wants to believe -- or admit -- it or not, Moore has taken great strides since signing with the Patriots in early December. The defensive lineman made three tackles on Sunday -- his fourth game with the team -- and forced a second-quarter fumble that led to a Patriots field goal and a 17-0 lead. That gives Moore 14 tackles, two forced fumbles, and two sacks in four games.

Not bad for the 29-year-old who began the season in the Carolina Panthers training camp, and then found himself helping lead the Florida Tuskers to the UFL Championship Game.

"Right now, I just have to thank God for the opportunity, and thank God for putting me here, and making the best of it," said Moore after Sunday's win over the Dolphins.

"Every guy's looking for a shot," he said. "And once you get that shot, you just have to take advantage of it."

After spending four seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants, New Orleans Saints, and St. Louis Rams, Moore found himself battling for another shot. The Patriots gave it to him in early December, and it's paid off for the organization.

Moore's hard work and willingness to keep battling, even after having to settle for a UFL contract earlier this season, is also paying off.

"He's come in and he's done what he had to do," said linebacker Rob Ninkovich. "He's done his job, and we're happy to have him. So whatever he's doing, he's got to continue to do. I'm excited to have Eric here . . . I know him from the past. He's a good player, so we're happy to have him."

Ninkovich's locker is right next to Moore's. The two know each other from playing together in New Orleans in 2006.

And they shared a special moment in Sunday's win, as Moore rushed into the backfield and forced the football out of Dolphins running back Ricky Williams' hands. Ninkovich jumped on the ball at his own 41-yard line, and it led to a New England field goal.

If the Patriots are prepared to make a serious run, they'll need Moore to continue to have the relentless presence he's had in the backfield as of late.

His teammates appreciate the work he's done to get where he is today.

"He's been a great player for us, on and off the field," said linebacker Jerod Mayo. "He's always in the film room trying to learn. We kind of threw him in there early, and he's getting better each and every week."

"Never give up, and if you've got a dream, continue to fight for it," said Ninkovich. "That's a lesson for everybody to see that, you know, he wanted to continue to play in the NFL, and he had to go to the UFL to get back to the NFL. So it talks a lot of his character and his drive.

"Eric's a great guy to have on your team because you know he's going to fight."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.