2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Strong defense leads Patriots to 3-0 record

By HOWARD ULMAN - AP Sports Writer
    2013-09-23 18:43

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Rob Ninkovich feared his career might be over before the New England Patriots gave him a chance in 2009.

He hurt his knee as a rookie three years earlier, was waived four times and had no backup plan if his NFL hopes ended.

But since joining the Patriots, he's been sacking quarterbacks and keeping runners from getting outside. He's a key to a veteran defense that has helped the Patriots to a 3-0 start while the offense has endured growing pains.

``We've played a lot of games together,'' the end said Monday. ``So (there's) communication, everyone being in the right spot and doing their job. Are there things that we need to work on? Sure.

``So throughout the year we're going to just continue to get better and work hard to be a great defense.''

Ten defensive starters are back from last season. The only newcomer is tackle Tommy Kelly, who spent his other nine seasons with the Oakland Raiders and has fit in well.

The Patriots are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for fewest points allowed (34). Seven came on a fumble return, so the defense has given up just three touchdowns. But they've played three of the NFL's weaker teams, the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The challenge is much tougher next Sunday night at Atlanta.

``Atlanta is a big challenge, but so was Tampa,'' coach Bill Belichick said.

Not nearly as big.

The Patriots haven't faced a quarterback as talented as Matt Ryan of the Falcons.

He was third in the NFL with a 68.1 completion percentage and sixth in passer rating after Sunday's games. The first three quarterbacks the Patriots faced were EJ Manuel (19th in rating), Geno Smith (31st) and Josh Freeman (33rd). All three have a completion percentage below 60 percent.

New England's offense made progress in the 23-3 win over the Buccaneers after two shaky games. Two rookie wide receivers started, with Kenbrell Thompkins catching two touchdown passes from Tom Brady, and Aaron Dobson making seven receptions.

Ninkovich knows what it's like to be struggling. He played just eight games in his first three seasons, with New Orleans and Miami. Each cut him twice before the Patriots signed him on Aug. 2, 2009.

He's developed so well that he just signed a three-year extension worth more than $15 million with $8.5 million guaranteed through 2016, his agent, Craig Domann said.

``Coming in, I was living out of a Rubbermaid bin just with clothes and (I'd) throw it in the back of my car and drive from city to city,'' Ninkovich said. ``It's nice to actually have a home for longer than a year.''

The lowest point came when the Saints cut him on July 30, 2009.

``Oh, it might be over for me,'' he thought. ``So then I came here, and it wasn't.''

Ninkovich played mostly on special teams in 2009, but in 2010, he began a starting streak that is now 42 games, including the postseason.

``I think that my skills fit this scheme well,'' he said. ``I can play (defensive) end, and I can play linebacker.''

Against Tampa Bay, he had five tackles and shared a sack. The Patriots allowed 323 yards but no touchdowns and stopped the Buccaneers four times on fourth down inside the New England 40-yard line.

``A fourth down stop is just like a turnover,'' said cornerback Aqib Talib, whose third interception of the season led to a field goal on the final play of the first half. ``We could have tackled a little better. We got good pressure on Freeman, though, so we played all right.''

Talib's arrival from Tampa Bay in a trade last Nov. 1 improved the defense at two spots. He upgraded the cornerback position with his ability to cover receivers one on one. And he allowed Devin McCourty to move to safety, a spot he's better suited for.

The Buccaneers converted just five of 19 attempts on third and fourth downs.

``That's all about attitude,'' McCourty said. ``Sometimes the offense is running a play they haven't run all day. It'll be something different and it's just one-on-one matchups across the board and somebody on defense making a play.''

Ninkovich has made plenty of them. In the past three seasons, he has 18 1/2 sacks and nine fumble recoveries. And he has plenty of time to get more.

``I thought it was over almost in 2009,'' he said. ``I had one chance to stick around to play in the NFL. That was five years ago now, which is surreal and kind of crazy.

``But I'm happy it happened.''

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Tharold SimonOct 20 11:04p

Seattle Seahawks CB Tharold Simon (ankle) and CB Byron Maxwell (calf) may be able to play in Week 7, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

A.J. GreenOct 20 10:33p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe) said he will play Sunday, Oct. 26, against the Baltimore Ravens, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Marcus GilbertOct 20 10:03p

Pittsburgh Steelers OT Marcus Gilbert (concussion) is out for the remainder of the team's Week 7 game after being diagnosed with a concussion.

Ahmad BradshawOct 20 08:43p

Indianapolis Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw is on pace for a combined 215 rushes and receptions and 1,753 total yards this season.

Devier PoseyOct 20 07:13p

The Houston Texans have declared CB Darryl Morris, WR DeVier Posey, LB Jadeveon Clowney, OT Jeff Adams, S Josh Aubrey, CB Jumal Rolle, QB Tom Savage inactive for Week 7.

Kapri BibbsOct 20 07:13p

Denver Broncos RB Kapri Bibbs was attracting interest from other teams on the practice squad, and the Broncos elevated him to their active roster because they didn't want to [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 20 07:08p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) is expected to be put through a rigorous workout Wednesday, Oct. 22, that will give team officials a better idea of where [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 20 07:07p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) could start in Week 8 against the Dallas Cowboys if he looks really good in practice Wednesday, Oct. 22, according to a [ More ]

Ike TaylorOct 20 07:03p

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared OG Chris Hubbard, CB Ike Taylor, WR Justin Brown, QB Landry Jones, LB Ryan Shazier, SS Shamarko Thomas, DL Steve McLendon inactive for Week 7.

Jadeveon ClowneyOct 20 07:03p

Houston Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney (knee) will not play in Week 7 because his lateral movement is not where the team wants it to be.

Kapri BibbsOct 20 06:53p

The Denver Broncos signed practice squad RB Kapri Bibbs to their active roster Monday, Oct. 20. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Daniel KilgoreOct 20 06:53p

San Francisco 49ers C Daniel Kilgore (leg) will miss the rest of the season after suffering a broken bone in his left leg during the team's Week 7 game. [ More ]

Zach MillerOct 20 06:43p

Seattle Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle) will not be able to play in Week 8.

Derrick ColemanOct 20 06:23p

Seattle Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman (foot) will miss at least six weeks because of a foot injury he suffered in Week 7.

Usama YoungOct 20 06:23p

Oakland Raiders FS Usama Young (knee) will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn medial collateral ligament in Week 7, according to a source.

S. RichardsonOct 20 06:13p

Pittsburgh Steelers CB Shaquille Richardson (undisclosed) was released from the practice squad injured list with an injury settlement Monday, Oct. 20.

Rey MaualugaOct 20 06:03p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring) is expected to miss a few weeks because of his hamstring injury.

Chris SmithOct 20 06:03p

Jacksonville Jaguars LB Chris Smith was signed from the practice squad to the active roster Monday, Oct. 20.

Tom CrabtreeOct 20 06:03p

The New Orleans Saints re-signed TE Tom Crabtree to their active roster Monday, Oct. 20.

Vontaze BurfictOct 20 05:53p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (neck) did not suffer a concussion in the team's Week 7 game but did suffer a neck injury, according to a team official. Burfict [ More ]

Gerell RobinsonOct 20 05:53p

Carolina Panthers DB Robert Lester, Cleveland Browns TE Gerell Robinson, Dallas Cowboys DT Ken Bishop and LB Korey Toomer and Miami Dolphins DT Deandre Coleman cleared waivers and became [ More ]

Brandon CarrOct 20 05:43p

Dallas Cowboys CB Brandon Carr (hamstring) strained his hamstring in Week 7 against the New York Giants. Carr still played every defensive snap and should be able to play [ More ]

Austin PettisOct 20 05:43p

The St. Louis Rams waived WR Austin Pettis Monday, Oct. 20.

Vincent JacksonOct 20 05:33p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson's name came up over the weekend in reports that the team was fielding phone calls from interested teams, but head coach Lovie Smith [ More ]

Manti Te'oOct 20 05:23p

San Diego Chargers LB Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring), CB Brandon Flowers (concussion) and LB Manti Te'o (foot) did not participate in practice Monday, Oct. 20. CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) and [ More ]

Matt RyanOct 20 05:23p

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan was sacked five times as the team's offensive line continues to struggle with injuries and poor play. 'We had way too much pressure,' head [ More ]

T.J. WardOct 20 05:03p

Denver Broncos CB Omar Bolden (concussion), LB Steven Johnson (ankle) didn't practice Monday, Oct. 20. S Quinton Carter (hamstring), CB Chris Harris Jr. (knee), RB Juwan Thompson (knee) and [ More ]

Cullen JenkinsOct 20 05:03p

New York Giants DT Cullen Jenkins (calf) has a strained calf and is expected to miss at least two weeks.

Jake LockerOct 20 05:03p

Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker (thumb) is scheduled to throw Tuesday, Oct. 21, and the team will see how he responds Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Brian HoyerOct 20 04:53p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer is still the team's starting quarterback even though he struggled in Week 7, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Ahtyba RubinOct 20 04:43p

Cleveland Browns DE Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) received a second option on his injured ankle. Head coach Mike Pettine said surgery for Rubin has not been ruled out.

Jason VerrettOct 20 04:43p

San Diego Chargers CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) missed his second game of the year in Week 7 with a shoulder injury, and his absence hurt the team in space against the Kansas City Chiefs.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group