Great breakdown of Ninkovich’s clutch interception that really slammed the door on the Texans. Another thing that played into the Patriots hands was how the Texans had been picking on Tavon Wilson with Casey. Made it even more likely they’d dump it off there even if Wilson was in coverage.
The Patriots, from film study, knew how Schaub would react to a blitz. In every offense, if a certain player rushes, then one or more receivers will break off their routes, otherwise known as a “hot” route. The Patriots knew that Casey was going to be Schaub’s hot route, and were willing to bet that he would rush his throw to Casey. Schaub read blitz, and figured that since Mayo was the only linebacker on the field, that the middle would be wide open to throw to his hot route. What he didn’t see was that Ninkovich, though he started on the line, had replaced Mayo as the middle linebacker in the defense and was in perfect position to pick off the pass.
Rob has been really productive for us all year. He’s had a great season. His production is right up there at the very top of the league at his position. He’s made big plays for us in the past – sacks, strips, fumbles, recovered fumbles, tackles for loss, all that. We know he’s got good hands. He’s had many interceptions before; made a great play there. We blitzed from the outside, he dropped down inside, got underneath the route and really made a great catch on the ball. It was high, tough catch but Rob’s a good athlete. He makes it look easy; he catches the ball well. That was a huge play for us, big stop and we were able to convert that into points offensively. That was a big key play in the game for us.
Great news, but I hope Francis is just sick or something. He’s really been coming on at the end of the season and would be useful if the Pats want to use their four defensive end pass rush package.
Defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who was last seen limping off the field at Gillette Stadium after injuring his left hip in the season finale against the Dolphins, was spotted at practice Tuesday. It was Ninkovich’s second time back on the practice field after being spotted last Thursday before the Patriots went on a three-day hiatus during the bye week. According to a tweet posted by Globe colleague Michael Whitmer (@GlobeWhitmer), who attended the media-access portion of practice at the lower fields, Ninkovich looked good and was “running and jumping during agility drills.” Rookie defensive lineman Justin Francis, who recorded a career-high three sacks vs. the Dolphins, was not spotted during the workout, conducted in sweats and shells.
Ninkovich returns to practice. Perhaps no development was more important this week than the return of defensive end Rob Ninkovich to practice on Thursday. Reports earlier in the week indicated that his injured hip might not prevent him from playing in the Divisional Round, and while practicing on Thursday should not be mistaken for a guarantee that he’ll suit up next Sunday, it’s a positive sign for the team leader in sacks. Ninkovich has developed into a critical three-down defensive player for the team, and gives them a versatile player to set the edge from both an end and linebacker alignment.
Big news for Rob Ninkovich and the Patriots today. Tests concluded the defensive end has avoided a serious injury, and there’s a good chance he can play when the Patriots open the postseason Jan. 13, according to a source. He suffered some strained muscles in his hip, which is a positive development after there was some legitimate, initial fear the injury could cost him the postseason.
The Blitz with Jeff Howe & Karen Guregian | Boston Herald
Huge news, and obviously it has to be taken with a grain of salt because a) the Patriots are masters of disinformation and b) who knows if Nink will be 100% by next Sunday. But this is positive news no matter how you cut it because I was certainly expecting he was done till next year.
As you might imagine given the points Buffalo put on the board, this was not a banner day for the New England defense — but nobody came out of it looking quite as bad as Rob Ninkovich (-7.0) who graded negatively in every facet of the game we track. He was beaten in the run game consistently by the Bills’ offensive line, notched just three total pressures (albeit one sack) from his 43 pass rushes, gave up three receptions in just six snaps in coverage, missed two tackles and was penalized for jumping the snap. The only solace for the veteran defender is that he was not alone in showing poorly. The Patriots missed a massive 15 tackles, with nine of those coming in the secondary and the rest coming at the second level from linebackers. Buffalo has running backs that can make you miss, but the Patriots need to tackle better than that to contain them.
Now, for the first time in his career, Ninkovich has some professional security: The 28-year-old signed a two-year extension worth $4 million last September, and has clearly claimed a spot as a part of New England’s defensive foundation. Pro Football Focus has him graded at 10.4 for the year overall, the fourth-best figure on the roster, and he’s on pace to hit double digits in sacks for the first time in his career.
Nice breakdown from Frenz. You can say a lot of bad things about the Patriots defense but Ninkovich is not among them. He’s making clutch plays and really excelling in the new Patriots defensive scheme.