Wright gets back into the swing of things


Wright gets back into the swing of things

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @dannypicard

FOXBORO Most of the talk during training camp and preseason has been about the Patriots defensive line tandem of Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth, figuring that Haynesworth would eventually play a game at some point this season.

Well, Haynesworth played in his first game with New England on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, however, it wasnt the only important addition to the Patriots defensive line this preseason.

Also joining the D-line on Thursday night was defensive end Mike Wright, who, like Haynesworth, plays an important role on the Patriots defensive line. Only, this wasnt Wrights first rodeo with the Pats. Wright enters his seventh season with New England, but hadnt played in a game since Week 10 of last season, thanks to a concussion.

"The guys that havent played a number of them got a chance to play today: Shaun Ellis, Josh Barrett, Shayne Vereen, Albert Haynesworth, Mike Wright," Bill Belichick said. "So, it was good. Those guys were able to get in there and play."

In his first game since Nov. 14, Wright made two solo tackles, just as many solo tackles as Haynesworth, in the Patriots 18-17 loss on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

One of those two tackles Wright made saved the day for New Englands defense at the time.

With seven minutes left in the second quarter, and the Patriots holding a 17-3 lead, Wright single-handedly stuffed Giants quarterback David Carr at the 1-yard line, as Carr scrambled out of the pocket down the right sideline, headed for the front corner of the end zone.

Wrights stop on first down set the Patriots defense up for another chance to stop the Giants, and they did just that on the very next play, forcing Carr to fumble the football, which the Pats recovered.

"Practice is practice and its great preparation, but its a higher level in games," Belichick said. "I think it was good for them to get that."

Wright and Haynesworth combined for five total tackles on Thursday night, and if each can stay healthy, theyll both be complete forces on New Englands defensive line.

But make no mistake about it, Wrights presence is just as important, and the Patriots are glad to have him back.

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.

Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers


Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers

A quick look at the information you need to know about today's Patriots-Steelers game:

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 5-1, Steelers 4- 2

GAME TIME: 4:25 p.m. EST


TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson


NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Larry Kahn, Mark Carrier and Troy West

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak


LAST MEETING: Patriots 28, Steelers 21 on Sept. 10, 2015 at Gillette Stadium

* * * *
-- The Patriots are 8-11 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in their history, but are 4-2 at Heinz Field. Included in those four Heinz Field victories are two in AFC Championship Games (in the 2001 and 2004 seasons).

-- Tom Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers in his career.

-- The last time Brady played the Steelers, in 2015, he set a Patriots franchise record with 19 consecutive pass completions.

-- The Patriots are 108-70 (.607) in road games since 1994, the best record in the NFL over that span. The Steelers (97- 82, .542) are second.

-- The Patriots have yet to throw an interception in 2016, setting a team record for consecutive games without an interception at the start of a season (6). The NFL record for consecutive games at the start of a season without a pick is 9, set by the 1960 Browns. The Patriots' franchise record for overall consecutive games with no interceptions is 8, set in 2010.

* * * *
-- Rob Gronkowski has 67 overall touchdowns and needs one to tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 66 receiving touchdowns and needs one to tie Morgan (67) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 22 100-yard receiving games, including two in 2016, and is tied with Jackie Smith for the third-most among all NFL tight ends. The only TEs who have more are Kellen Winslow (24) and Tony Gonzalez (31).