Pats name Bill O'Brien offensive coordinator

191543.jpg

Pats name Bill O'Brien offensive coordinator

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

We can now drop the "de facto." For two seasons, Bill O'Brien has been the lead game-planner and playcaller for the Patriots offense. His title, though, has been quarterbacks coach. On Friday, the Patriots decided to hand him the title of the job that best fits the job he's been doing. It's a good deal for O'Brien, who persevered through a tough 2009 after succeeding former OC Josh McDaniels after McDaniels left to coach the Broncos. Coordinating a 2009 offense that featured a still-healing Tom Brady and a subtly declining Randy Moss, O'Brien got a lot of flak for the Patriots' offensive failures, especially in the second halves of games. But in 2010, he helped craft an offense that successfully featured tight ends, reincorporated Deion Branch after the trade of Moss and got production from unlikely sources (Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis). Brady, meanwhile, returned to full strength and had one of the great regular seasons in NFL history with 36 touchdown passes, four picks and arecord for throws without an interception. The fiery O'Brien and equally fiery Brady have been known to flare at each other, but Brady consistently praises O'Brien's preparation and game-calling. O'Brien, meanwhile, has deflectedsole responsibility for offensive game-planning when asked about it, saying it's a shared job among all the offensive coaches and Bill Belichick. Meanwhile, jettisoned safeties coach Corwin Brown will be replaced by linebackers coach Matt Patricia. Brown, we've come to hear, could be an especially hard guy to work with whether you werea coaching peer or a player. Patricia figured to be a leading candidate for the defensive coordinator spot vacated last year after the team's au revoir to Dean Pees (Belichick handles that job). Patricia will be working with a group that - despite Brown's demeanor - had an outstanding season. Patrick Graham, a defensive assistant, now takes over a linebackers group that returns an All Pro inside linebacker in Jerod Mayo. The 32-year-old Graham is a 2002 graduate of Yale where he played defensive line. Brian Flores goes from offensive assistantassistant coach of special teams to Graham's old job. There's no word out of Dallas yet on the possible hiring of highly respected Patriots strength coach Mike Woicik. It's been acknowledged by a source that the loss would be a blow because of Woicik's expertise but that Harold Nash, Woicik's current assistant, is well thought of, as well.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Bennett not practicing, Foster spends some time with receivers

patriots_dj_foster_082516.jpg

Bennett not practicing, Foster spends some time with receivers

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett could use a rest, and the Patriots had him sit out for the start of Wednesday's practice.

The 6-foot-7 tight end is dealing with ankle and shoulder issues that have limited him in practice in recent weeks, and he missed an appearance at a preschool on Tuesday with what a representative called an illness. During Sunday's game against the Rams, Bennett's physical ailments clearly limited him as he had difficulty both as a blocker and as a receiver. 

The Patriots also went without safety Jordan Richards, receiver Danny Amendola and special teams captain Matthew Slater at the start of practice. Richards suffered a knee injury against the Jets in Week 12 and missed practice time last week. Amendola endured an ankle injury against the Rams and left the game iin the third quarter. Slater is dealing with a foot injury that has kept him out of the last two games. 

Patriots corner Eric Rowe was present for the start of Wednesday's practice, but he was not spotted with other corners after a couple of drills. Rowe injured his hamstring late in the third quarter against the Rams and did not return. 

Patriots running back DJ Foster was spotted with receivers near the end of the team's media-availability period Wednesday after working out with running backs to start the session. Foster played receiver for a year in college after beginning his collegiate career as a running back. If the Patriots want depth at wideout with Amendola injured, Foster could be an option.

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

After a 3-0 start, the Ravens dropped a 28-27 decision to the Raiders in Baltimore. That started a four-game skid for Baltimore which included back-to-back losses at the Jets and Giants. But they got back on track against the Steelers and have won four out of five with their only being to the Cowboys. It’s hard to get a clean read on who they really are. 

They had narrow, early-season wins over crap teams like Cleveland and Jacksonville. They had a narrow loss to an outstanding Raiders team and were close with the Cowboys but got run over late with Dallas scoring on its last five possessions. They are coming off their most impressive team win, a 38-6 triumph over the Dolphins. 

This game is a big one in the AFC race not just because it’s a divisional leader but also because it will be a common game between the Patriots and Raiders. The Raiders already beat Baltimore. 

The Pats need to keep pace in a tiebreaker they currently trail. Weird schedule quirk? The Ravens have had only one road game that required a long commute since September. That was the game at Dallas. They just played six of their last nine and four of their last five at home.

LAST 5

Ravens 21, Steelers 14
Ravens 28, Browns 7
At Cowboys 27, Ravens 17
Ravens 19, Bengals 14
Ravens 38, Dolphins 6

OFFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

More than half of Joe Flacco’s 323 completions have gone to three players: tight end Dennis Pitta (61 catches), wide receiver Mike Wallace (57) and wide receiver Steve Smith (54). Those players are 31, 30 and 37 respectively so it’s a veteran group.
Flacco is 114 of 159 (72 percent) with nine touchdowns and three picks in Baltimore’s last four games. He has 15 TDs and 11 picks this season.

The Ravens don’t run it much: 502 pass attempts, 287 rushing attempts. Terrence West and Kenneth Dixon are the lead backs. West has carried more than 15 times in a game on three occasions this season.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been playing very well as has the rest of the Ravens offensive line in recent weeks. Still, Baltimore is just at 34.1 on third down conversions.

DEFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

The Ravens have allowed 207 points this season, tied with the Patriots for lowest in the AFC and just behind Seattle (194) overall.
Baltimore’s allowing just 33.3 percent conversions on third down and only 3.4 yards per carry.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.1 percent of their passes and have 21 touchdown passes and 14 picks against the Ravens defense. Ten of the Ravens 14 picks came against the Browns, Jaguars and in last week’s rout of Miami.
 
WHERE ARE THEIR HEADS AT

"I just think they've got a great team. They've got Tom Brady. They've been the best team in the conference, and it's going to be our toughest challenge of the year." – John Harbaugh, Ravens coach, on Monday night’s matchup