NFL team on the verge of a new stadium

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NFL team on the verge of a new stadium

From Comcast SportsNet
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings' hopes of a new stadium are one affirmative vote away from becoming reality. Only a state Senate vote stands between the franchise and the 975 million stadium the Vikings would move into ahead of the 2016 season. The House passed the stadium plan early Thursday by a 71-60 vote. The stadium would lock down a treasured team no longer bound by a stadium lease, but also would go down as the one of the largest subsidized projects in state history at a time of tight government budgets. The reworked bill has the Vikings paying 477 million, a significant cut above the figure team officials had once described as "set in stone." Though the package was tougher, it was clearly the team's only chance to replace the Metrodome, a 30-year-old facility the Vikings say has outlived its usefulness. Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the team's billionaire owners, New Jersey developers Zygi and Mark Wilf, decided to lock in the deal rather than hold out for better terms, knowing the Legislature had only two days left to act. "It is a heavy lift but it is the right thing to do for Minnesota," Bagley said. The Vikings intend to take advantage of an NFL loan program, sell naming rights and possibly impose seat license fees to help cover the team's end of construction costs. As revised, the fixed-roof stadium would draw on 348 million in state money, plus 150 million from an existing city of Minneapolis hospitality tax. Under the bill, the Vikings would sign a 30-year lease on a stadium to be built on the site of the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The team would pay about 13 million annually in operating fees, though a public authority gets the power to rent out the building on non-game days for concerts, conventions and special events. The Wilfs would get exclusive rights to recruit a professional soccer team to Minnesota. The bill gives the Vikings the option to upgrade to a retractable roof, but at their expense. Bagley said the Vikings haven't decided if they'll make that enhancement. The state's share was to come through expanded gambling, which some legislators opposed on principle. Others worried the state overestimated the money it would get by authorizing charitable organizations to offer electronic versions of pull tabs, a low-tech paper game offered in bars and restaurants around the state. Rep. Morrie Lanning, a Republican who was the stadium's chief House advocate, said getting the required votes depended on upping the team contribution by 50 million. The team long said it would give no more than 427 million. "We knew we had to drive a hard bargain and we drove a hard bargain," he said. If the Senate gives its OK later Thursday, the bill goes to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature, a near certainty given the months he has pressed legislators to come up with a stadium deal that would guarantee the Vikings don't get lured away. The city of Minneapolis would have a month to consent, which is considered a formality. Outgunned but not going quietly, opponents expressed disgust that lawmakers were bowing to baseless fears of the team leaving if it doesn't get a new stadium. "I think the state got rolled. Our constituents got rolled," said Rep. Tina Liebling, a Democrat from Rochester. "I think we can do much better." Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen was among those to slam the state's decision to authorize thousands of mini-gambling devices in bars and restaurants and take a cut of the profits. He characterized the plan as preying on people addicted to gambling. "Rather than Robin Hood, we're robbing the poor to subsidize the rich," said Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe. But ardent fan Larry Spooner Jr., the leader of a band of Vikings fans who held daily vigils at the Capitol during stadium discussions, was giddy with excitement. Spooner said he would hold off on celebrating until all of the votes were done. "We are Vikings fans," he said. "We are prepared for the worst."

Curran: Texans perfectly positioned to slow down Brady and the Patriots

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Curran: Texans perfectly positioned to slow down Brady and the Patriots

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes in 14 of the 273 games he started and finished. The Patriots are 6-8 in those games. Among the 14 are three games against Rex Ryan’s Jets, including two in 2013 and the second game of the season in 2009. There’s also the 2015 AFC Championship against Denver, the playoff win over the Texans last year, and the season-opening loss to the Chiefs this year.

The common denominator in those six games? Outstanding defenses with coordinators and personnel that new Brady well and -- in all but the win over the Texans last January -- a dearth of wide receivers.

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Every year there’s a search for the BLUEPRINT!!! for slowing down the Patriots offense and making Brady look mortal. Google “blueprint for beating the Patriots” and you get 370,000 results. Many of those say the 2007 Giants crafted it first. Few of those mention praying for dropped interceptions and helmet catches in the final two minutes.

The most sure way to slow down the Patriots offense is to have really good defensive players who can bring pressure and (this is the key) hoping the Patriots are banged up at wideout and can’t do their usual damage in the middle of the field.

That’s your blueprint. And it’s in place this week. This isn’t saying the Patriots will lose to Houston, who I’ll wager won’t produce more than 10 offensive points. But I’ll also bet you straight up that Brady completes fewer than half of his passes against Houston.

No Edelman, Gronk with a groin, Danny Amendola coming back from concussion and Brandin Cooks still getting adjusted will leave the Texans knowing their key to success is jamming the middle and making Brady work outside.  

The Texans were fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt last season (5.83), second in passing yards allowed per game (201), first in first downs allowed per game (17) and second in completion percentage against (58.68).

Brady knows what’s coming. He talked about it earlier this week on WEEI with Kirk and Callahan, saying, “They were the No. 1-ranked defense in the league last year. I don’t think I completed many passes in that game, either. I think I was below 50 percent. They just did a good job of putting pressure and when you put pressure, the ball has to come out quick and they had a lot of guys in coverage, too. It was just tough to get rid of it quick. The one positive we took out of that game was we made a lot of big plays. Some teams are going to decide to take away some shorter throws, and they give up longer plays. I think we had seven plays over 20 yards in that game. We moved the ball pretty well. It just didn’t look super rhythmic."

The Texans were able to get pressure and drop a lot of guys in coverage because they have exceptional talent up front.

Brady broke down the Texans’ front on Wednesday, starting with J.J. Watt, saying, “Earlier in his career you used to kind of get a bead on where he’d be, [which] could help you out a little bit. But now they move him so much he’s going to really face every guy that you have up front. [He’ll] be on both sides, be inside, be outside. They run a lot of games. They’ve got a lot of scheme stuff that they use to try to get their guys free in the front, but all of those guys are exceptional athletes. J.J. is an incredible player. He’s been Defensive Player of the Year (three times). He’s got speed, quickness, power, he’s got all the moves, got all the counters. He’s just a tough guy to block.

“Then you pair him with Whitney Mercilus, who’s one of the most underrated players, I think, in the league in terms of rushing the passer to everything that he does to help that team. I know practicing against that guy how good he is. And then with Jadeveon [Clowney], he’s one of the most athletic guys in the league. He does some things that other people can’t do. He’s just size, speed, explosiveness. So all those guys on the same field at one time is a big problem for any offense. You don’t want to be holding the ball too long because you know that they’re going to get home at some point and I think that means we’ve got to really stay on track. We can’t have many negative plays. We’ve just got to play a really consistent kind of football for the entire game.”

The Texans are in a little bit of trouble at corner this week. One starter, Kevin Johnson, is down with an MCL and Johnathan Joseph will be playing with a shoulder injury that forced him from last week’s game against the Bengals.  

The Patriots made it look easy last week against the Saints, which caused people who’d been pointing out Brady was BORN IN 1977!!!! stare at their shoelaces for a few days. But they’re just resting because they’ll be back Sunday evening and into Monday with the same “old” song, ignoring the facts of the case.

The facts are that Brady -- with a full complement in the playoffs last year and the Texans missing J.J. Watt -- had his hands full to the tune of a 47.37 completion percentage, the lowest completion percentage in 34 career playoff games. Without Edelman in this season's opener (and losing Amendola midway through), he completed 44.44 percent of his passes -- fourth-worst among games he started and finished.

The key in this one could be Cooks. As Brady pointed out, the Texans yielded some chunk plays. Cooks, who’s got speed to spare on the outside, will likely be looking at press coverage that -- if he can be beat it -- will give him a chance to run under some Brady duck-and-chucks. And there will be some of those.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien -- whose defense is run by former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel -- isn’t looking at the KC game as a blueprint. He’s looking instead at the 27 points scored and the points left on the field by New England.

“When I look at their offense, obviously they didn’t win the game, but there were several things that they did in the game that were very good,” said O’Brien. “They’re a very dangerous team on offense. They play fast. They play with great efficiency. They have a different game plan every week, different personnel that they’re using and so, it’s difficult. You don’t really know what to expect. The combination of Tom and Josh [McDaniels], the brains behind that offense, it’s hard. It’s hard to deal with that and we’re just going to have to see what it is when the game starts and do the best we can to keep up with what they’re trying to do and go from there.”

The Patriots offense knows generally what’s coming from Houston and vice versa. The Patriots won’t be “rhythmic” and there will be balls skipping in the general vicinity of where Brady hoped a receiver would be when he let it go with Watt or Mercilus bearing down on him. Bet on it.

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