Curran: Five thoughts from the first half


Curran: Five thoughts from the first half

By Tom E. Curran

FOXBORO -- Five thoughts from a dominant first half by the Patriots.

1. WOODHEAD WHACKEDWith 8:59 left in the first quarter, Danny Woodhead took a handoff up the middle and got met and met hard by Kendall Langford. Woodhead fumbled, Miami recovered and Woodhead left the field with a head injury. He got checked out on the sidelines by the medical staff for a concussion and has not yet returned. His return is listed as questionable. Woodhead has been on the bench throughout the half and was seen walking around and chatting with teammates. But having next week off is a plus for any player who needs to convalesce and Woodhead would seem to be one now. 2. TURNOVER STREAKWoodhead's fumble snapped the Patriots' seven-game streak of not turning the ball over. Going into the break they've given it up 10 times in 2010. The record for fewest turnovers in a 16-game season is 13 set by the Packers and Dolphins in 2008. The Patriots would seem likely to break that. 3. HOYER GETS YANKEDBrian Hoyer came in for three plays in the second quarter and - after nearly getting picked then throwing one into the Dolphins' bench - got the hook in favor of Brady. Brady played out the remainder of the first half. He's stretched his streak of attempts without an interception to 332. You'd have to expect Hoyer to get the bulk of the second half snaps, if not start after intermission. 4.MORE FROMMOOREPlucked from the UFL, the defensive end continues to be a powerful force for the Patriots since he's arrived. In the first half today, his pressure in the Dolphins' backfield was almost constant. Between he and Rob Ninkovich, there's been a ton of heat brought by the Patriots pass rush.
5. JULIAN RISESPatriots' wide receiver Julian Edelman - who had just four catches for 14 yards coming into this game - had a 94-yard punt return and back-to-back receptions of 22 and 40 yards to set up the Patriots' first touchdown. This week, Tom Brady noted that Edelman has a tendency to press and get down on himself. Maybe this performance will help kickstart him and regain the trust of Brady who's been victimized by a number of Edelman drops this year.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Blount powers his way to new career-high in return to Pittsburgh


Blount powers his way to new career-high in return to Pittsburgh

LeGarrette Blount's performance at Heinz Field was an ironic one because the 24 carries he received in New England's 27-16 win over Pittsburgh was more than twice the number of carries he got during his busiest days as a member of the Steelers in 2014.

Blount signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2014, believing he would be a significant part of the organization's plans. He found out relatively quickly that he was not -- not as long as Le'Veon Bell was in town and running well, at least. He averaged just six carries in his 11 games with the Steelers, and he was cut after he walked off the sidelines, frustrated by his lack of playing time, before a Monday night win over the Titans was over.

The Patriots quickly moved to sign Blount, and the match between player and organization has been a fit ever since. There are days where the football is in quarterback Tom Brady's hands for long stretches, and there are days where Blount is leaned on.

"As a running back, you always want the football," he said. "If we have 80 plays, you're going to want 80 carries. You just gotta be patient. When the opportunity presents itself, you just gotta make the most of it."

Sunday presented Blount with his share of opportunities and he capitalized. He ran for 127 yards (a 5.3 yards-per-carry average) and two scores against the Steelers, helping keep an aggressive defense at bay, and punishing his former coach Mike Tomlin for flooding the field with defensive backs when Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett were on the field.

"LG ran hard," Bill Belichick said. "Good ball-security. Good pad level. Made some tough yards, and he made a couple big-play, kind of explosive runs . . . He gave us some explosive plays, and we needed that, particularly when they cut it to a four-point game."

The Steelers made it a four-point game with a field goal before halftime, and then they made it a one-point game when they got another Chris Boswell kick to make the score, 14-13. That's when New England's 250-pound back came up large.

He ripped off gains of 11 yards, then 25 yards. Three plays later, Gronkowski was in the end zone on a 36-yard strike from Tom Brady.

"I thought we ran the ball great on that drive," Brady said. "We really got a hat on a hat and it gave LeGarrette some space to run. He's just so deceptive with his quickness. He's a big back but he's got great agility. He makes yards after contact. He gets guys in space and does a great job attacking the creases there. He had a great day today."

Belichick said those long carries helped "settle" things down as it kept the Steelers pass-rush on its heels when the Patriots were pressing to extend their lead.

"He gave us a couple of big runs there to . . . settle things down where it wasn't just a pass-rush game for them all day," Belichick said. "They had some good pressure early in the third quarter, kind of got us in some long-yardage situations. Holding penalties. Hit the quarterback. Forced the ball out quick. So his runs were able to settle us down. I thought our offensive line came through with some good blocking, as well as our receivers and the tight ends, obviously. We ran behind Marty and Rob a lot."

Through seven games, Blount already has a career-high for rushing touchdowns with eight. He's on pace to find the end zone 18 times, which would best Curtis Martin's franchise record of 14 scores in a single season. 

"We went in there with a game plan," Blount said. "We stuck to it, and we came out with a win."